- Odd News
By Lizzie Parry
PUBLISHED: 08:46 EST, 24 December 2013 | UPDATED: 09:58 EST, 24 December 2013
An independent report which found there was evidence that Portsmouth MP Mike Hancock 'made unwelcome sexual advances' towards a vulnerable female constituent, has been branded 'one-sided' by the former Lib Dem.
The report, seen by the Guardian, found there was 'prima facie evidence' the backbencher, who resigned from the party over the allegations, had made the 'sexual approaches'.
The MP was arrested in 2010 in
connection with the allegations but Hampshire police decided there was
not enough evidence to mount a criminal case.
Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock has today claimed an independent report which claims there is evidence he sexually assaulted a 'vulnerable' constituent is one-sided as his accuser sues him in the High Court
He was accused of making repeated sexual advances towards the woman, who had contacted him for help in dealing with her 'noisy neighbours'.
It is alleged that Mr Hancock sexually assaulted the woman despite knowing she suffered mental health problems and had been sexually abused as a child.
His accuser is taking civil action, suing Mr Hancock through the High Court.
But the MP has vowed to clear his name, vehemently denying the allegations.
Portsmouth City Council instructed Nigel Pascoe QC, a leading barrister specialising in sexual crime cases, to interview the alleged victim after the council said it received a standards complaint against the Fratton councillor.
In June Mr Hancock, 67, stood down from the Lib Dems after a meeting with the party’s chief whip, Alistair Carmichael.
In an exchange of letters, the MP wrote: ‘I have decided to temporarily withdraw from the parliamentary party in the Commons until the civil court case against me has been concluded.
He added that he would ‘vigorously defend my position and that I completely refute the allegations made against me’.
But in August, Mr Pascoe's report, seen by Rajeev Sajal and Daniel Foggo at the Guardian, concluded there is evidence of sexual approaches made by the MP.
The inquiry goes on to conclude that Mr Hancock was aware of the woman's mental health problems.
The Guardian reported Mr Pascoe said in the 49-page report: 'I consider that the prima facie evidence of his unwelcome sexual approaches remains unquestionably a very serious matter in the light of the position which he holds and his knowledge from the beginning of the vulnerability of (the alleged victim).'
The MP stepped down from the Lib Dem party in June vowing to clear his name in the High Court
The report is based on Mr Pascoe's investigation of a seven-month period from November 2009, the Guardian said.
The leading barrister also looked into text messages sent by Mr Hancock to the alleged victim.
In the messages, the MP refers to his accuser as 'my princess', and tells her she is 'special and sexy' to him.
The woman, who was 35 at the time, claimed Mr Hancock touched her breast, exposed himself to her and kissed her without consent.
It is also alleged the MP took the woman's son, aged 12 at the time, to parliament for dinner, bought her a teddy bear named Mike and sent her numerous text messages.
The report was compiled following two interviews with the alleged victim, and Mr Pascoe's examination of her mental health history, The Guardian said.
It says the woman is 'convincing and truthful' but also 'angry and hurt' by what she claimed had happened.
'Making full allowances for the disclosed mental history of [the alleged victim], I have no doubt that she has provided before me compelling prima facie evidence of serious and unwelcome sexual behaviour carried out towards her by Mr Hancock.
'I am of the clear view that her account is credible and merits both compassion and respect,' he wrote in the report.
'I found [the alleged victim] to be a straightforward and vulnerable person, angry and hurt by what she said had happened to her… Indeed, at no point did I form the view that she lied to me,' he said.
Mr Pascoe added Mr Hancock had shown kindness towards the woman, which had not been reflected in the media.
He said: 'There is clear evidence that he sought to help her wholly properly as her local councillor in a detailed way which was commendable.'.
Mr Pascoe says he did approach Mr Hancock but sources close to the council told The Guardian the MP declined to meet the barrister.
A spokesman for Mr Hancock today accused the report of being 'one-sided' adding the MP looks forward to the case coming before the High Court so he can 'strongly and utterly refute' the accusations made.
The spokesman said: 'These matters have twice been looked at by the police, first in 2010, and in conjunction with the CPS, they have found that there is no case for Mr Hancock to answer and have taken no further action.
When a person complains to police they are the victim of a sexual offence, they are immediately granted anonymity for life.
The Sexual Offences Act, 2003, includes numerous crimes including:
Those convicted of a sexual offence will be forced to sign the Sexual Offenders Register for a length of time dictated by the sentencing Judge.
Once a police force has gathered the evidence, they present their findings to the Crown Prosecution Service.
It is the CPS who review the evidence and determine whether there is enough evidence to bring a case to court.
Where they decide the evidence is insufficient, the case is dropped.
But the alleged victim is entitled to take civil action, suing the alleged perpetrator for damages.
In criminal proceedings the prosecution has to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty.
But in civil court the UK standard is only to prove guilt on the basis of a balance of probability.
'Mike Hancock looks forward to the civil case coming to court so that he can bring forward evidence to strongly and utterly refute the allegations made.
'The independent legal advice to Portsmouth City Council noted that the High Court was a better place to establish matters of fact - not least because it could take evidence under oath which the council cannot.
'Mike Hancock asked to meet with the council's independent investigator to explain this and this was denied him despite the city council's solicitor asking the investigator to meet Mr Hancock.
'He therefore believes the report which he has not seen is likely to be one-sided.
'The most suitable place to settle a civil case is in court and not in the newspapers.
'As this is an on-going legal case, it not appropriate for Mike to give a running commentary.
'In the meantime he will continue to work hard to serve his constituents as an MP and councillor.'
Following the completion of the report in August, police officers re-examined the claims made but announced in November that they required more evidence and dropped the case.
A spokesman for Portsmouth City Council, told MailOnline their inquiry into the allegations have been suspended until the conclusion of the civil case.
The council's solicitor, Michael Lawther, said: 'The council's procedure for dealing with complaints against councillors makes no provision for a copy of a report to be provided to a complainant or to be published.
'We have therefore been unable to release it. We anticipate that we will be reviewing our procedure once the investigation of this complaint is over.
'After legal advice, the council sub-committee running the investigation decided on November 15 that it could be unsafe to deal with the complaint using our internal disciplinary process when the same allegations were due to be tested in the High Court.
'It therefore postponed the process until the High Court action was concluded.
'It felt there was a risk of inconsistency between a decision the council could reach and one which the High Court might reach.
'In deciding to postpone, it also considered the greater suitability of the High Court for determining contested issues of fact, including its ability to compel the attendance of witnesses, and provision for cross-examination while on oath.'