AN investigation is to be launched into the conduct of Portsmouth councillor Mike Hancock following historic allegations he sexually assaulted and harassed a mentally ill woman.
Mr Hancock, who is also Lib Dem MP for Portsmouth South, was accused of subjecting the woman, who is from Portsmouth, to ‘upsetting sexual treatment’ over the course of 10 months after she approached him for help with a neighbourhood dispute in 2009.
He has always denied the claims, which were thrown out by the Crown Prosecution Service when it investigated the claims.
They centred over a series of text messages allegedly sent to her by Mr Hancock.
The woman is now suing him in the High Court, alleging that he also kissed her on several occasions without her consent, and is asking for damages of between £15,000 and £50,000.
Mr Hancock was unvailable for comment but in a statement, a Liberal Democrat spokesman said: ‘There has been a code of conduct complaint against Mike Hancock in his role as a Portsmouth city councillor, which has been considered by the council’s assessment committee.
‘The committee’s role is to assess whether the person was a councillor at the time of the alleged breach of the code and not to investigate the complaint itself.
‘Mike vigorously denies that he has broken the code of conduct. The allegations have previously been investigated by the police but no further action was taken.
‘Mike will co-operate fully with the investigations of the city council and does not feel it appropriate to comment further.
‘In the meantime, he is recovering from major heart surgery and will continue to serve his constituents as an MP and a councillor to best of his ability.’
The investigation, which will be carried out by an independent lawyer, is due to take between two and three months to complete.
Council solicitor Michael Lawther said: ‘A sub-committee of Portsmouth City Council today decided to refer a complaint against Cllr Mike Hancock for investigation.
‘The governance and audit and standards committee (assessment) sub-committee, made up of three councillors, considered evidence of a breach of the council’s code of conduct and decided there was a case to answer. They made no judgement as to whether or not there had been a breach.
‘I will now appoint an independent lawyer to carry out an investigation. We estimate the investigation will take two or three months.
‘If a breach is proved against a councillor, they can be censured for their conduct.’
Government changes to the standards regime means that the only action the sub-committee could take if any councillor breaches the code is to strip that councillor of any special responsibilities, issue a censure, order them to issue an apology and undertake training.