CALLS are being made to suspend Mike Hancock from the Liberal Democrats while claims that he sexually assaulted a woman are still being investigated.
Solicitor Harriet Wistrich, who represents the Fratton councillor’s alleged victim, has written to the party’s Federal Executive asking why it’s chosen to suspend Lord Rennard over similar claims, but Cllr Hancock hasn’t been.
It was announced on Monday that Lord Rennard had been suspended from the party, pending a probe into claims he brought it into disrepute by refusing to apologise to four women who alleged he sexually harassed them.
Both Cllr Hancock, also an MP for Portsmouth South, and Lord Rennard, former chief executive of the Liberal Democrats, deny the allegations.
While Cllr Hancock has resigned the parliamentary whip – which makes him an independent MP – he still represents the Liberal Democrats as a ward councillor.
Ms Wistrich said there was now a lack of consistency following Lord Rennard’s suspension.
‘Lord Rennard has now been suspended on the grounds of bringing his party into disrepute,’ she said.
‘I originally complained about Mr Hancock to the Liberal Democrats in 2011 on the grounds that it didn’t initially look at it (the allegations).
‘Though he is not a Liberal Democrat MP anymore, he is still a Liberal Democrat party member and a Liberal Democrat councillor.
‘My point is, the party hasn’t applied its rules.’
As reported, Portsmouth City Council has decided it won’t make a final decision over whether Cllr Hancock broke its code of conduct until the outcome of a civil case, which the alleged victim has lodged against him.
During a meeting of Portsmouth City Council yesterday, Cllr Donna Jones demanded that it should suspend Cllr Hancock in the meantime. As part of his duties to the council, Cllr Hancock is cabinet member for planning, regeneration and economic redevelopment.
Addressing the council chamber, Cllr Jones, leader of the Conservative group, said: ‘My heart goes out to Cllr Hancock’s wife (Jacqui). But we have duty as councillors to protect the public.
‘We have had very serious allegations made about staff members in the past about very similar matters and quite rightly, they were suspended pending the conclusion of the investigation.
‘I wouldn’t be doing my job as leader of the opposition if I didn’t urge this council to suspend Cllr Hancock until the investigation is concluded.’
Cllr Hancock was unavailable for comment.