Panel chairwoman criticises colleague’s stance

CRITICAL Cllr Donna Jones
CRITICAL Cllr Donna Jones

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THE chairwoman of the panel overseeing the investigation into Mike Hancock’s conduct has criticised her colleague for defending him.

Councillor Donna Jones said no-one should be saying whether the Fratton councillor is guilty or not as that will be decided later by the panel after all evidence is heard.

She anticipates that the civil case against Cllr Hancock will be wrapped up this year and the panel will settle the council’s probe in September. It will be then that Nigel Pascoe presents his report and Cllr Hancock is given the chance to put forward his case, before the panellists make a decision.

Cllr Jones said: ‘Les is predetermining by saying he is not guilty. He is predetermining his position for September and he can’t do that. I have never, ever said that he is guilty, but I have said he should be suspended from the council. If I was to ever say that Cllr Hancock was guilty, I would debar myself from sitting on the panel hearing.’

Meanwhile, Cllr Jones maintains council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson’s position is untenable after Cllr Hancock’s suspension from the Liberal Democrats.

Cllr Jones has written a letter calling for his resignation because she claims he has failed in his duty to protect the public by allowing Cllr Hancock to have access to vulnerable adults.

‘He ignored pleas from the public and opposition leaders to do the right thing for the protection of the public and suspend Mike with immediate effect,’ she said.

A decision over Cllr Hancock and Cllr Vernon-Jackson’s future was to be decided at a meeting of the city’s Liberal Democrats group tonight.

Asked about his future, Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘There will be a discussion by the group. The law says that I am elected for four years and I am in my second year.’

Portsmouth City Council was due to appear at the High Court today contesting an application for QC Nigel Pascoe’s report to be used as evidence in the civil case against Cllr Hancock.