THE woman who claims she was sexually assaulted by Mike Hancock says the Liberal Democrats should ‘hang their heads in shame’ for not taking action against him sooner.
Councillor Hancock was last night suspended from the party after a copy of a report into his conduct was obtained at the Liberal Democrats’ London headquarters.
As previously revealed in The News, Nigel Pascoe QC was paid £18,800 by Portsmouth City Council to investigate and write a report on whether Cllr Hancock broke the council’s code of conduct.
In her only interview since Cllr Hancock’s suspension, the alleged victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, focused her criticism on Portsmouth’s Lib Democrat members for not taking immediate action against Cllr Hancock and instead delaying the probe until the outcome of a civil case she has lodged against him for sexual assault.
The panel that oversaw the complaint were Liberal Dem councillors Les Stevens and Terry Hall, and while Tory councillor Donna Jones chaired proceedings, she was against any delay – but was outvoted.
This week Labour Group leader Cllr John Ferrett has called for the Pascoe report to be made public.
The alleged victim, who has a history of mental health problems, also said Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the council and the city’s Liberal Democrats, should be held to account.
She told The News: ‘Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Terry Hall and Les Stevens should all hang their heads in shame. The Liberal Democrats could have done something about it ages ago.’
The woman said she was frustrated that the Liberal Democrats had not taken action after she gave evidence to Alistair Carmichael, the party’s Chief Whip, following Cllr Hancock’s resignation as parliamentary whip and move to become an independent MP for Portsmouth South last year.
‘I was overwhelmed that (Lib Dem leader) Nick Clegg decided to do something about it, but considering that Alistair Carmichael had quite a lot of information to go with, something should have been done then,’ she said.
‘I have been let down by all the authorities.’
A redacted version of Mr Pascoe’s report has gone online, and The News can now reveal some of the detail that’s contained within the 52-page document.
It focuses on the time from when the woman first met Cllr Hancock in November 2009 – when she went to him for help over noisy neighbours – to when allegations she made to her support worker were reported in July the year after.
During two separate interviews last year with Mr Pascoe, the woman’s allegations included:
· Cllr Hancock exposed himself in front of her.
· He made sexual advances on numerous occasions.
· He forcibly kissed her.
· He ran his fingers through her hair on two separate occasions.
· Cllr Hancock gave the woman gifts, including a teddy bear sprayed in aftershave and a box of Quality Street for her son.
In his conclusion, Mr Pascoe said: ‘I have no doubt that she has provided before me compelling prima facie evidence of serious and unwelcome sexual behaviour towards her by Mr Hancock. I am of the clear view that her account is credible and merits both compassion and respect.
He added: ‘I consider that the prima facie evidence of his unwelcome sexual approaches remains unquestionably a very serious matter in the light of the position which he holds. No-one in public life should allow themselves to act in such an irresponsible and damaging way.’
Mr Pascoe found that the actions of Cllr Hancock were not motivated solely by sexual desire.
‘In my view, there is clear evidence that he sought to help her wholly properly as her local councillor in a detailed way which was commendable,’ he said.
Mr Pascoe said it was evident that he treated her at times with kindness.
He also took into account that he tried cheering her up when she was depressed, and said Cllr Hancock’s behaviour towards her was ‘more complex and nuanced’ than has previously been represented in the press.
The alleged victim said she has been driven to suicide since the alleged incidents, but the thought of what that would do to her son has kept her strong.
She also said that she lives with the memories of having to bring up what is alleged to have happened with Cllr Hancock ‘every day.’
‘I’ve thought to myself, maybe I should take my own life, but I have got a son to think of,’ she said. ‘It has made me depressed.’
A spokesman for Cllr Hancock said: ‘These matters have twice been looked at by the police, first in 2010, and in conjunction with the CPS, they have found that there is no case for Mr Hancock to answer and have taken no further action. Portsmouth standards sub-committee has yet to meet to hear evidence including from Mike Hancock as it decided to postpone that hearing until after the associated civil court case.’
Cllr Hancock was unavailable for comment when contacted by The News, while Cllr Vernon-Jackson said he would comment further after tomorrow’s Lib Dem meeting.