Bid to force Hancock to foot bill is not natural justice

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PORTSMOUTH Tory councillor Alistair Thompson makes a compelling argument for forcing Mike Hancock to repay the £150,000 of taxpayers’ cash spent probing his conduct.

He points to the various groups in the city which might have been saved with this amount had it not been spent scrutinising the disgraced Portsmouth South MP and veteran former city councillor.

Last month Mr Hancock apologised for forging an inappropriate relationship with a female constituent and turning up at her home unannounced on occasions. He was due to face a civil court battle but apologised to the constituent in an out-of-court agreement. Mr Hancock had previously denied any wrongdoing.

About £40,000 was spent seeking legal advice for Mr Hancock’s investigation, with almost half that money paying for QC Nigel Pascoe so he could conduct an independent report into the matter.

Cllr Thompson said up to £20,000 was used by the council to try to stop Mr Pascoe’s dossier being used in a High Court civil case involving Mr Hancock and his victim. The rest of the £150,000 takes into account the amount of time spent by council officers over the years looking into his behaviour.

Cllr Thompson says: ‘We are scrabbling around for £5,000 and £7,000 here and there to stop groups going to the wall, yet we have wasted this money defending the indefensible.

‘I feel sick that this money has been wasted at a time when we are making cuts affecting the most vulnerable people in our communities.’

Fair enough. But there is an important point here about natural justice. It was not Mr Hancock who called for the investigation, it was the council. It was an investigation which should have been completed in three months, not the protracted affair which lasted almost a year. And Lib Dem councillors should not have sat on a sub-committee which investigated his behaviour.

But despite all this, justice must be transparent. Everyone has the right to defend themselves and have any case against them examined thoroughly without the fear of having to foot the bill.

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