AN election candidate produced leaflets falsely claiming MP Mike Hancock was a paedophile, a court heard.
Les Cummings, 66, is on trial charged with making a false statement about the character of Mr Hancock with the purpose of affecting the return of the election under the Representation of the People Act 1983.
Southampton Magistrates’ Court heard that Cummings, from Portsmouth, produced an A4 leaflet which contained the false allegation ‘Mike Hancock is a paedophile.’
The leaflet, produced last April, contained the false statements that Mr Hancock had an affair with a 14-year-old schoolgirl who became pregnant and whom Mr Hancock had been seen kissing in a casino.
It also contained the false allegation that Mr Hancock had slept with a girl in Romania during his charity work for Mencap in the country.
The court heard that Mr Hancock admitted that he had had extra-marital affairs but had never had any sexual involvement with anyone aged under 17 in the UK or abroad.
The court was told that the source of the allegations was ‘rumour’ and Cummings had no evidence to support it.
The court heard that Cummings stood as an independent candidate for the Justice and Anti-Corruption Party for both the Portsmouth South seat in Parliament and for the Charles Dickens seat on Portsmouth City Council but did not win either position.
Alison Morgan, prosecuting, said there had been ‘a history of animosity’ between Cummings and Mr Hancock.
This culminated in Cummings producing the leaflet containing the false allegations.
Miss Morgan said: ‘During the course of the local and General Election for Portsmouth South and Portsmouth City Council last year, this defendant created and distributed a leaflet about the Liberal Democrat candidate, Mike Hancock.
‘That leaflet contained the statement “Mike Hancock is a paedophile.”
‘The Crown says this statement was patently false and this defendant had no reasonable justification to believe it to be true.’
Describing the allegations made in the leaflet, Miss Morgan said: ‘Les Cummings is naming Mike Hancock as a paedophile who had an affair with a 14-year-old schoolgirl while married, as a Portsmouth councillor and a governor of that girl’s school.
‘Witnesses in Southsea casino say he kissed her (the schoolgirl), he made numerous trips to Romania and various child sex destinations.
‘Witnesses saw him in bed with children in Romania.’
She added that the leaflet concluded: ‘If it’s not true, why won’t he sue?’
She said the leaflet also included ‘other allegations accusing Mr Hancock of being corrupt and a friend of known criminals.’
Describing Mr Hancock’s response to the leaflet, Miss Morgan said: ‘He accepts that he has had extra-marital affairs in the past but has never had an affair with anyone under the age of 17 or anyone who was still at school.
‘He accepts he had been at a casino in Southsea but had not been there for 25 years and had never kissed anyone there.
‘He had been to Romania for his charity work for Mencap but had never as part of these visits been alone with children.’
Miss Morgan said Cummings had told police that his source for the allegation about the schoolgirl was a local hairdresser whom he would not name.
The court heard that Cummings was told about the Romanian ‘rumours’ after his electoral agent, Leo Ciccarone, heard about them from a meeting about three or four years ago.
Mr Ciccarone told the court that the rumours were heard by the mother of his ex-business partner at a public meeting.
He said: ‘There were rumours - and I believe them to be true - he had a relation with a minor, a 14-year-old, and had a young baby in Portsmouth.’
The court heard that Mr Hancock successfully took out an injunction banning the distribution of the leaflet and Cummings was later arrested.
Mr Ciccarone said he left Cummings’ campaign team because he was fed up that none of the allegations against Mr Hancock was being published.
Mr Ciccarone said: ‘Whenever we said anything about Mr Hancock, there’s nothing coming out.
‘Every time we touch that man, nothing sticks to it - we call it Teflon, nothing sticks to it.’
Miss Morgan said Cummings gave police a ‘hazy account’ of his proof for the allegations made in the leaflet.