MP Mike Hancock has today apologised for forging an inappropriate friendship with a female constituent, ending a four-year dispute over his conduct.
A judge at the High Court in London has signed off an agreement containing a statement in which Mr Hancock says sorry for the ordeal he put his alleged victim through. It shuts the lid on the civil case the woman had filed against the MP in 2011.
As part of the deal, the woman – who cannot be named for legal reasons – has been given a financial settlement, though the sum is unknown.
The apology however is not an admission of guilt over claims he sexually assaulted the woman.
In a statement to The News, the female concerned said she is now looking to seek closure on what has been a ‘traumatic episode’ in her family’s life.
‘I am pleased that there has finally been a resolution to what has been a long and hurtful ordeal for me,’ she said.
‘Since the incidents of which I complained happened back in 2010, my physical and mental health have suffered and I am grateful that I may now have some closure to this traumatic episode in the lives of both myself and my son.
‘When I made the initial complaint, I was ill-served by Portsmouth City Council’s social services department and the subsequent Hampshire Constabulary investigation was inadequate in my view.’
Mr Hancock will now face a Lib Dem disciplinary hearing.
Today’s events bring to an end a four year battle by the Portsmouth constituent, who has a long history of mental health issues. She has always maintained her motives were not driven by money.
It all began in July 2010, when allegations about Mr Hancock’s behaviour the woman made to her support worker were reported to the police.
Three months later, he was arrested over the claims, although at the end of the year it was conﬁrmed that he would not face criminal charges in the case.
The following year, he was served court papers after the woman lodged a civil case at the High Court against him.
Portsmouth City Council launched an investigation into his conduct in March 2013, and the probe – which cost in excess of £60,000 – has come to an end since he is no longer a councillor.
That’s because he lost his seat in Portsmouth’s Fratton ward after 43 years to Ukip’s Julie Swan at the local elections last month.
Despite defending his seat, Mr Hancock admitted he couldn’t run his own election campaign since he was suffering from depression and complications arising from a heart operation and was staying in a Priory clinic in Hampshire.
He quit his cabinet role under the previous administration earlier this year in return for the Lib Dems not putting up a candidate against him at the elections.
And while he was suspended from the Lib Dems after a dossier produced by QC Nigel Pascoe into his conduct was leaked, questions have now been raised over whether Mr Hancock will be reinstated by the party’s national leader Nick Clegg now that he has apologised.
In the meantime he remains an independent MP for Portsmouth South.
Harriet Wistrich, solicitor on behalf of the claimant, said: ‘This is a powerful and extensive apology from the defendant, which importantly recognises the inbuilt power differential between an MP and his constituents, which creates the potential for exploitation.
‘I pay tribute to my client, who has battled for justice for years and faced extraordinary hurdles.’
An excerpt from the apology
‘In October 2009 you first came to me as a constituent to seek my assistance as your MP and councillor.
Subsequently and over several months, I came to your home on several occasions, sometimes unannounced, and conducted a friendship with you that was inappropriate and unprofessional. I understand that you felt degraded. I did not treat you with sufficient respect.
I made you feel deeply uncomfortable and discriminated against and I crossed the line.
I can only apologise to you unreservedly to you for any distress, anger and worsening of your psychiatric condition that I caused.’