Hancock conduct probe has cost taxpayers £25k

ONGOING Mike Hancock did not welcome the council's investigation into his conduct

ONGOING Mike Hancock did not welcome the council's investigation into his conduct

The hustings at Portsmouth College - from left:  David Carpenter (college governor), Gerald Vernon-Jackson (Lib Dems), Ian McCulloch (Green), Steve Fitzgerald (college teacher and chair), Stephen Morgan (Labour), Kevan Chippindall-Higgin (Ukip) and Penny Mordaunt (Cons)   Picture: Heather Eggelton

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AN INVESTIGATION into the conduct of Portsmouth councillor Mike Hancock has cost taxpayers more than £25,000, The News can reveal.

Portsmouth City Council has used the money to hire Nigel Pascoe QC to determine whether Cllr Hancock has broken the council’s code of conduct.

Cllr Hancock, who is also the MP for Portsmouth South, is being sued at the High Court in a civil action by a female constituent over allegations of sexual assault.

He has stepped down from the parliamentary Liberal Democrat party while the court action takes place, but still holds his council cabinet position of head of planning, regeneration and economic development.

The council has been billed for responding to legal letters from Saulet Ashworth Solicitors, Mr Hancock’s legal team, and Birnberg Peirce & Partners, which is representing the Portsmouth woman he is accused of sexually assaulting. She cannot be named for legal reasons.

The News understands council money has also been used to bring in Ian Wise QC twice to provide assistance.

He has told the council it could face a judicial review if it delayed the probe until the outcome of the High Court case, as Cllr Hancock has requested.

The bill could get higher because the investigation hasn’t finished yet.

Nigel Pascoe QC is due to come back to the council with a report soon, when the governance and audit and standards committee – which has been looking into the case – will decide whether to agree.

Another QC might also be paid to look into whether an investigation should have even taken place.

Cllr Donna Jones, who has been chairwoman of the committee’s proceedings into the matter, said she was dismayed at how much money had been spent.

‘I have raised my objection to the city solicitor Michael Lawther and members of the sub-committee regarding the decision to get a second opinion from a similar QC concerning the Mike Hancock investigation,’ she said.

‘The reason is because the sub-committee has received information from Ian Wise QC that we will lose a judicial review if we do not continue with an investigation. I object to more taxpayers’ money being spend on a second opinion when it’s already clear cut.

‘I am disgusted that in excess of £25,000 has been spent on this investigation so far without having reached a conclusion. That could have paid for a children’s social worker for a year.’

Mr Hancock said the money spent had nothing to do with him as it was the council’s decision to investigate.

‘It’s not my problem,’ he said. ‘I have nothing to do with it. I am appalled that this is happening.

‘It should be settled in the courts where I wanted it to be settled. The council chose to do this, not me. I didn’t ask for the investigation to happen.’

Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson was unavailable for comment.

HANCOCK SAYS HE’S BEEN ‘WORN DOWN’ BY HATE CAMPAIGN

CITY MP Mike Hancock says a campaign of hate by a Portsmouth resident has taken its toll on him.

Les Cummings, who was fined £500 by a district judge for falsely branding him a paedophile in campaign leaflets in 2011, has sent out fresh documents to residents in Fratton condemning him with similar slurs. Although Mr Hancock said he had reported the matter to the police, a spokeswoman said there was no record of it being brought to their attention.

Mr Hancock said: ‘It’s harassment and untrue. I have had this character against me for seven years. It’s wearing me down.’

Mr Cummings said hundreds of people had signed a petition he had organised against Mr Hancock.

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