Nick Clegg's claims to not to have known about allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour by the disgraced Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock have been called into question by the complainant.
The Liberal Democrat leader called on Hancock to resign over his "totally and utterly out of order" behaviour after the Portsmouth MP apologised for having made sexual advances to a female constituent that made her feel "degraded" and "uncomfortable".
Hancock, who has been suspended from the Lib Dems, is now likely to be expelled from the party following disciplinary proceedings. However, Clegg himself is under pressure over his party's failure to deal with the allegations for more than four years. It follows other complaints that the Lib Dems have failed to investigate claims of sexual misconduct, including accusations that Lord Rennard inappropriately touched four women, which he denies, and a string of child abuse claims against the late Cyril Smith MP.
The deputy prime minister said he could not have reacted to things that he did not know about and acted swiftly when he was made aware of the allegations in early 2013. "The moment I got something put in front of me which was specific, which was related to the court proceedings, early in 2013, I acted immediately," Clegg said on LBC Radio. "But you're quite right, and she's quite right to say back in 2011, something was sent to my office. It didn't reach me." However the complainant, known as Annie, said: "Can the Liberal Democrats be so inefficient that Nick Clegg's office failed to pass on the letter I sent to him?" She added: "It is difficult to see how Clegg failed to read so many newspaper stories about what Hancock did and said to me."
The Lib Dems were first told of the claims against Hancock in September 2010 when the Sunday Times broke the story of the claims
on the front page of the newspaper
. At the time, the party told the reporter: "It is a personal matter." The Guardian first put the allegations to Clegg's office in 2011 on two occasions, but was told that it was a matter for the party. The woman herself sent a letter to Clegg's office in 2011 and followed this up with a phone call to Downing Street. The complainant launched civil legal proceedings in early February 2012, but it was another four months before Hancock resigned the party whip in June of that year.
The last time the Guardian approached Clegg's office about the claim against Hancock was in December 2013, in relation to a
report by Nigel Pascoe QC
that found that the woman was a credible witness
and that Hancock had behaved in a way that disgraced his office. The story was then printed in the Guardian . Only when a redacted version of the report was leaked to the media earlier this year was Hancock finally suspended.
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