MP: I was sickened by paedophile claim

Mike Hancock arrives to give evidence at court today
Mike Hancock arrives to give evidence at court today
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MP Mike Hancock told a court today he was sickened when he saw an election campaign leaflet claiming he was a paedophile.

The Portsmouth South MP was giving evidence at the trial of Les Cummings, who is accused of producing leaflets falsely claiming Mr Hancock is a paedophile.

Mr Hancock said he was out knocking doors in the run up to last year’s election when a resident in his constituency showed him the leaflet.

Asked by Alison Morgan, prosecuting, if he was a paedophile Mr Hancock said: ‘Absolutely not. I am horrified that anyone would make the suggestion.’

Asked how it made him feel he said ‘sickened.’

Cummings distributed the A4 leaflets when he stood against the Lib Dem for the Portsmouth South constituency last year.

In them he falsely claimed Mr Hancock had an affair with a 14-year-old schoolgirl who fell pregnant and that he had been seen kissing her in a Southsea casino, Southampton Magistrates Court was told.

Asked if he had an affair with the girl Mr Hancock replied ‘never.’

The court has heard that the leaflet – which was produced in April last year – also falsely stated that Mr Hancock had slept with a girl in Romania while doing work for the charity Mencap in the country.

Asked today if he could have been in bed with children in Romania he said: ‘Absolutely impossible and untrue.’

Asked if he had any reason to be in bed with a child he said: ‘Absolutely no reason whatsoever and that’s really offensive to people I work with and to me.’

Mr Hancock has admitted to having extra-marital affairs but denies ever having any sexual involvement with anyone aged under 17 or anyone who was still at school.

Prosecutor Alison Morgan said the false allegations were ‘based on gossip and rumour’.

Cummings stood against Mr Hancock as an independent candidate for the Justice and Anti-Corruption Party in Portsmouth South in last year’s general election.

Mr Hancock obtained an injunction which prevented further circulation of the leaflets the day after they were delivered in the Portsea area of Portsmouth on April 22.

Mr Hancock was later returned as MP for Portsmouth South with an increased majority.

Cummings was arrested in July last year in connection with the leaflets and released on bail.

Miss Morgan said Cummings told police he created the leaflets on his computer in the early part of last year and produced 10 to 20 copies which he admitted distributing in the Portsea area of Portsmouth.

Cummings is accused of making or publishing a false statement about the MP’s character or conduct with the purpose of affecting the return of the election.

The 66-year-old, whose address cannot be published because of an order made under Section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, denies the charge.

In court today, Mr Hancock admitted that he has had a number of affairs.

Asked if his wife knew about the affairs he said ‘yes.’

The leaflets also claimed Mr Hancock was corrupt but Mr Hancock said ‘absolutely not.’

Responding to an allegation from Cummings that he associated with known criminals he said: ‘I have no idea. I know a lot of people. I know lots of people but I don’t associate myself with known criminals.

‘I simply don’t ask everyone who comes into my office or who I meet if they have got a criminal record.’

Heather Norton, defending, asked Mr Hancock why he had said in a legal affadavit in response to the leaflet that he had not had ‘numerous affairs.’

He replied: ‘It depends in what you mean by numerous.

‘If I had stated I had no extra marital affairs that would be an untrue statement.’

Asked how many affairs he has had Mr Hancock said: ‘I wouldn’t like to say. I think that’s irrelevant to that statement.

‘I said it was a few. I didn’t say it was numerous and I didn’t say it was none.’

Asked by Heather Norton if he had had relationships with women while working abroad he said yes.

Asked if the women were considerably younger than him he said: ‘No, not all of them.

‘If you’re asking me about sexual relationships I think that’s a totally different question altogether and I am not prepared to answer questions about that which are not related to this case. Why should I have to?’

Miss Norton suggested Mr Hancock had been to Soames Casino in Portsmouth with a girl in 1983 who was 14 or 15.

He replied: ‘Absolutely untrue.’

Miss Norton said former Portsmouth city councillor Jezz Baker, who himself was jailed for corruption, had seen Mr Hancock with the girl at the casino ‘being intimate.’

Mr Hancock said: ‘No. I didn’t know Mr Baker. I was not in a casino with this person.

‘I have never been in a casino with this person and certainly never taken anyone under the age of 21 into a casino because it would be illegal for them to be there.’

The court heard that the leaflet said: Hancock is corrupt, a friend of known criminals, has had numerous extramarital affairs.’

It also showed a picture of the MP with two children whose faces were obscured above the words: ‘Now you know Hancock is a paedophile will you let him get this close to your children?’

Asked about the photo on the leaflet of him with two children Mr Hancock said: ‘It was taken at an event in Portsmouth promoting support for young children around the city.’

Mr Hancock said he knew who Les Cummings was because he had asked questions in council meetings.

He said: ‘Personally I have never spoken to Mr Cummings except to answer various questions at council meetings over the years.

‘He asked once for a meeting with me but that was through my secretary.’

Asked if they met he said: ‘No, I didn’t because Mr Cummings wanted it on very strange terms.’

Mr Hancock finished giving his evidence just before the lunch break.