THE former leader of Portsmouth City Council has said sorry to the vulnerable woman subjected to the advances of disgraced MP Mike Hancock.
Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson wrote to the woman saying he shouldn’t have accepted the Portsmouth South MP’s assurances he had done nothing wrong.
As reported, Mr Hancock admitted to forming an inappropriate friendship with the female constituent last month, despite previously insisting he was ‘100 per cent innocent’.
The woman went to Mr Hancock for help over an issue with noisy neighbours in 2009, and a complaint about his conduct was made by a support worker on her behalf the year after.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said in his letter: ‘I accepted Mike Hancock’s assurances, and in this I was wrong. My acceptance of these assurances also meant that I did not accept your word, and again, in this, I was wrong.
‘I am therefore writing to apologise to you in accepting Mike Hancock’s assurances about his actions with you, and for not accepting your complaint.’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson’s letter came before a meeting of the full council this week where members agreed Mr Hancock should be asked to repay the £150,000 cost of an investigation into his behaviour.
Lib Dem Councillor Terry Hall apologised before members for her part in delaying an investigation into the MP’s conduct.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson added: ‘I am not writing this letter because someone has told me to do so, but because I need to acknowledge what I got wrong, and because my actions may have made matters worse.’
But the woman said that Cllr Vernon-Jackson’s apology was ‘too late’ and wasn’t a cure for the years of torment she has gone through. ‘These apologies seem somewhat little and very late,’ she said.
‘Why do people have to get hurt in these situations?
‘I have suffered for four years.’
Lib Dem admits ‘deal’ was struck over MP
LIB Dem leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson says he has asked a former member of his group who quit over its handling of the Mike Hancock investigation to outline her concerns to him in writing so he can respond properly.
Councillor Eleanor Scott said at this week’s meeting of the full council that Cllr Vernon-Jackson and Mr Hancock told the Lib Dem group last year they got ‘the best deal possible’ after a meeting with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg which resulted in Mr Hancock deciding to give up the party’s parliamentary whip while his conduct was being investigated.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson admitted to The News such a comment had been made by either him or Mr Hancock. ‘A comment to that effect would have been made, because Mike Hancock was protesting his innocence and didn’t think he should have had the whip withdrawn,’ he said.