CITY leaders are today demanding the home secretary orders a fresh police investigation into the conduct of disgraced politician Mike Hancock.
Portsmouth’s top councillors have signed a letter calling on Theresa May to step in and consider launching a new probe into allegations the former MP sexually assaulted a vulnerable woman.
And Mrs May is being challenged to examine Hampshire Constabulary’s investigations into the allegations as civic officials say they weren’t thorough enough. They also want to ensure any new case is overseen by another force outside the county.
Detectives have repeatedly said they will not take further action over the claim made against the former Portsmouth South MP, first made by the woman’s support worker in July 2010, after considering the evidence they had.
But campaigners believe the issue shouldn’t go away and pressure needs to be put on the authorities to hold Mr Hancock, who lost his parliamentary seat at the general election, to account.
Deputy Tory council leader Luke Stubbs, who was one of five councillors who signed the letter, also sent to Lesley Longstone of The Independent Police Complaints Commission, said: ‘There was a victim in this case, she deserves to have justice. We need to make sure no stone has been left unturned. The home secretary has responsibility for policing, and part of the justice system needs to make sure they have behaved properly throughout.’
I always found it difficult to see how the police never though there was sufficent evidence to require a charge, when there was corroborative evidence in the text messages sent (by Mr Hancock to the victim).Councillor John Ferrett, Labour group leader
Cllr John Ferrett, Labour group leader, said: ‘I have expressed my disquiet before about how the police hadn’t pursued any action on this, given the recommendation from the Pascoe report that it should be looked at by the police.
‘I always found it difficult to see how the police never thought there was sufficient evidence to require a charge, when there was corroborative evidence in the text messages sent (by Mr Hancock to the victim).’
It was alleged in July 2010 Mr Hancock sexually assaulted the female constituent, who has mental health issues, after she went to him for help in his role as a Fratton councillor.
He was arrested that October, but the Crown Prosecution Service decided there was insufficient evidence for a charge.
A dossier later produced by QC Nigel Pascoe into Mr Hancock’s conduct as part of a probe carried out separately by the council was passed to police detectives – but it was not acted upon. Mr Hancock then admitted to forming an ‘inappropriate friendship’ with the victim last summer through the High Court. Police said no further action would be taken. Allegations relating to sexual assault were dropped as part of the agreement.
Lib Dem group leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who backed Mr Hancock before he admitted to wrongdoing, said: ‘There are residents who have got a concern that a decision was made very quickly (by the police), and they want someone outside of Hampshire to have a look at it. If there is a concern about any police investigation not done properly then it seems the right thing to do.’
Cllr Donna Jones, Tory council leader, plans to write her own letter to the CPS with her concerns.
When approached for comment, Mr Hancock said: ‘They will go on trying to make mischief as much as they can, but I have no real comment about it. ‘
The former Lib Dem later added: ‘Perhaps Theresa May should investigate the links between the political party leaders and some of the people who have given me hassle over the years. The police have investigated this twice.’
Hampshire Constabulary has previously said Mr Hancock was questioned by detectives outside Portsmouth when under arrest.
Councillors’ letter in full
Dear Mrs May and Ms Longstone,
We, the undersigned councillors of Portsmouth City Council, feel compelled to write to you about the failure of Hampshire Constabulary to investigate and take appropriate action regarding allegations of serious misconduct surrounding former councillor and MP Mike Hancock.
We are most concerned that Hampshire Constabulary may have failed to comply with the policy and procedures set out in the Safeguarding Adults Policy (2010), to which both the council and Hampshire Constabulary are signatories.
It would appear that a timely and thorough investigation has not been carried out.
As you may know from national press reports, the careworker for a vulnerable adult (known as ‘Annie’) with mental health issues reported to Hampshire Constabulary in 2010 that Cllr Hancock had sexually assaulted or harassed Annie, in proper compliance with the Safeguarding Adults Policy. We have been informed that two male police officers then visited ‘Annie’ and counselled her not to pursue her complaint, because Cllr Hancock was a powerful person.
Later that year, a national Sunday newspaper reported that Cllr Hancock had sent certain text messages of a sexual nature to ‘Annie’. Cllr Hancock was apparently arrested, but again the police took no action. Through her solicitors, ‘Annie’ then brought a civil action for sexual assault against Mr Hancock in the High Court.
She also made a complaint of misconduct to the council against Mr Hancock. In order to investigate the complaint, the council commissioned an independent investigation into observations by Nigel Pascoe QC. Mr Pascoe produced his report (The Pascoe report) in the autumn of 2013, and the found the allegations to be believable and that ‘Annie’ was a credible witness.
Mr Pascoe recommended the matter should be acted upon. It was referred to the police by the city solicitor, but again Hampshire Constabulary chose to take no action.
Pending the outcome of the civil proceedings, the council adjourned the disciplinary hearings taking place pursuant to the Pascoe report, contrary to the recommendations of Mr Pascoe. The Pascoe report was introduced into the civil proceedings, despite objection by Mr Hancock. In June 2014, Mr Hancock accepted that he had ‘crossed the line’ and made a public apology to ‘Annie’ in the High Court and paid undisclosed costs and damages.
By then, Mr Hancock had ceased to be a city councillor following the May 2014 elections. The disciplinary proceedings were not therefore resumed. However, it was expected that police inquiries would be recommended in view of Mr Hancock’s admissions. Instead, Hampshire Constabulary announced within an hour that no further action would be taken against Mr Hancock.
In the light of recent similar cases, where Hampshire Constabulary have admitted failures in procedure and in fact paid substantial damages, we view this situation to be of professional concern and unacceptable. We would therefore urge you to order an independent inquiry as to why Hampshire police have taken no action in this case, and, if necessary, make direction that the case should be looked at again by a police force other than Hampshire Constabulary.
We believe that this is the only way in which public confidence in Hampshire Constabulary might be restored in this case. This letter is a summary; all points raised in this letter can be evidenced.
We would appreciate a full, written reply to this letter which is of great importance to victims of alleged sexual abuse.
Cllr Luke Stubbs, deputy Tory council leader
Cllr John Ferrett, Labour group leader
Cllr Steve Wemyss, Tory group leader in 2010, when the matter first surfaced
Cllr Colin Galloway, Ukip group leader
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Lib Dem group leader