The election candidate accused of falsely describing MP Mike Hancock as a paedophile today told a court he was sure the allegation was true.
Les Cummings started giving evidence in his defence of a charge of making or publishing a false statement about the MP’s character or conduct with the purpose of affecting the return of the election.
Cummings told Southampton magistrates he believed the allegation that Mike Hancock was a paedophile was true.
Asked by Heather Norton, defending, if the allegation was based on a number of sources he said ‘yes.’
Asked if he would have made the leaflets if he thought the claim was not true he said: ‘Absolutely not.’
The court heard Cumming was abused while he was in care as a child.
In 2006 he set up the Childrens Cottage Homes Justice Project to demand an apology from Portsmouth City Council for the abuse.
He said: ‘I realised that in order to be taken seriously I had to form a recognisable organisation because as an individual we wouldn’t have the influence and the power to tackle and achieve the quest so I then started a website.’
Asked why he first contacted Mr Hancock he said: ‘I think I needed some information and assistance in the correct way to manage our quest for justice, or my quest for justice.’
Asked if Mr Hancock was helpful he said ‘no.’
He added: ‘I just wanted an apology because it was very, very important.’
Cummings said that it was during his quest for an apology from the council that he was told Mr Hancock was a paedophile.
He said his former electoral agent Leonardo Ciccarone had given him the information.
Cummings said: ‘I was told that Mike Hancock had a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl.’
Asked if he was given any details about other relationships involving Mr Hancock he said: ‘Yes, that he had made trips to Romania and that whilst in Romania he had been seen with children in bed.’
He also said he got some information from a woman who knew Mr Hancock.
He said: ‘What she said was that as a child she remembered having family dinners and that this was discussed. That Hancock was in Romania. He had been to Romania giving extra clothes to some ladies for sexual favours and that there was mention of Hancock and children.’
Cummings said that after his group were given a settlement from Portsmouth City Council he continued to look into Mr Hancock’s personal life.
‘That carried on because other people gave me other information,’ he said.
Cummings said that when former city councillor Jezz Baker was on trial over allegations of corruption he contacted him to see if he could find out anything about the council.
He said Mr Baker had told him about Mike Hancock and a 14-year-old girl, known only as Miss A.
He said: ‘I spoke to him about it and I think I conveyed to him what my beliefs were and then he volunteered some information that he had seen Mike Hancock in a casino with the lady.
‘What he said was that he remembered that he was in the casino and I believe he was trying to change a cheque for money or something like that and as he approached the cashier’s counter he was abruptly sort of pushed aside by Mike Hancock and with Mr Hancock was the lady.’
He added: ‘One piece of information led to another, led to another which began to give more and more credence to my beliefs.
‘I began to believe that it was characteristic of what I call a paedophile.
‘It was the behaviour that I would have expected somebody of that character to do.
‘I think more than anything else I was alarmed, I was alarmed and astounded that the city that I held responsible for exposing me to much abuse, that the same city and a representative of that city was in essence behaving in exactly the same way as the people that were abusing me decades ago.’
Asked if he blurred the faces of children in a photo on the leaflet to make it look more sinister Cummings said: ‘At that time I put that on there because I was so disgusted about this situation I had to shock people.
‘Upon reflection I kind of wish I had never done that but I was acting, probably, as a victim at that time and I wanted to prevent anybody else being exposed to what I believe was a sexual predator and a paedophile.’
He added: ‘I wanted people to be aware of the person they were going to be voting for.
‘More than anything else I wanted people to be aware of this. If I affected the vote then OK, I had to accept that.’
Alison Morgan, prosecuting, accused Cummings of being obsessed with Mr Hancock and trying to discredit him.
‘Not true,’ he replied.
Asked if his purpose was to stop Mr Hancock being elected Cummings said: ‘You’re talking about two separate issues. One is to obtain and apology, the other is to expose the belief, from information I got and gathered from various people, that he was a paedophile.
‘My aim was to expose Mike Hancock as a paedophile.
‘I wanted the public to be aware of what Michael Hancock was.
‘It’s my belief 100 per cent. In my mindset the information that I was given I was 100 per cent sure it was true. I was then and I am now.’
Miss Morgan said Cummings knew the allegation was not 100 per cent true and was just trying to discredit Mr Hancock.
He said: ‘I was putting the information out so that it would invoke somebody to investigate.’
Miss Morgan said: ‘It was a deliberate attempt to create a sensational document about Mr Hancock.’
Cummings replied: ‘It was a leaflet that I put out to give information to the public, you can call it sensational if you want but that’s your interpretation.’
Miss Morgan said the woman known as Miss A, who Mr Hancock is alleged to have had a relationship with when she was 14 in the 1980s, had sent a letter to Cummings through her solicitor, denying the allegations.
Cummings said: ‘The problem that I had with that is that after three months, which was a great deal of time, I didn’t really believe the contents of the letter. The lady concerned hadn’t signed it herself.
‘It was too little too late. It had no credibility.’
Asked if he had spoken to anyone who had seen Mr Hancock in bed with a child in Romania he said “no”.
Miss Morgan said the leaflet was part of a vendetta to smear Mr Hancock’s name.
Cummings said: ‘I have every belief that everything I say in this document is true. I will always believe it.
‘Mike Hancock, and you will never get me to say anything different, is a paedophile.’
Cummings is accused of making or publishing a false statement about the MP’s character or conduct with the purpose of affecting the return of the election.
The 66-year-old, whose address cannot be published because of an order made under Section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, denies the charge.