Woman's evidence against MP Mike Hancock is credible, says QC

Mike Hancock Mike Hancock has been MP for Portsmouth South since 1997, having previously held the seat from 1984 to 1987

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The barrister who investigated claims of sexual misconduct by Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock towards a female constituent found her evidence "credible", according to his report.

The report, by Nigel Pascoe QC, has until now not been officially published, but copies have been leaked.

In it, he says the woman's account deserves "compassion and respect".

A police investigation into the claims - which Mr Hancock denies - found no further action should be taken.

Mr Pascoe was appointed by Portsmouth City Council in Mr Hancock's Portsmouth South constituency to produce a report after a complaint by a female - known as Annie, which is not her real name - that the MP had abused his position as an elected representative with sexual advances between November 2009 and July 2010.

In the report, Mr Pascoe says: "I do not find the actions of Mr Hancock were motivated solely by sexual desire for [Annie], who at all times was his constituent. It follows that the true picture of the behaviour of Mr Hancock towards [Annie] is more complex and nuanced than has previously been represented in the press.

"That said, 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. No-one in public life should allow themselves to act in such an irresponsible and damaging way."

Civil case

Sections of the 49-page report have been redacted. However, Mr Pascoe does state: "Making full allowances for the disclosed mental history of [Annie], I have no doubt that she has provided before me compelling prima facie evidence of serious and unwelcome sexual behaviour towards her by Mr Hancock. I am of the clear view that her account is credible and merits both compassion and respect."

A police investigation into the allegations found last year that no further action should be taken.

Mr Hancock, who is also a city councillor, temporarily stood down from the parliamentary Liberal Democrat Party in June and is currently involved in a High Court civil dispute over the sexual assault allegations.

In November, a meeting of the council's standards committee decided not to proceed with any investigation into Mr Hancock until court proceedings had concluded.

On Tuesday, the council voted not to release a copy of the QC's report, but it has since been leaked.

The report outlines the chronology and detail of the allegations, including what are said to be text messages exchanged between Mr Hancock and the constituent, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

'One-sided'

On Mr Hancock's website, a spokesman for the MP wrote: "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.

"Portsmouth standards sub-committee has yet to meet to hear evidence including from Mike Hancock as it decided to postpone that hearing until after the associated civil court case."

The spokesman added: "Unfortunately due to the ongoing civil case, Mike received legal advice that he should not give evidence to the council's investigator. He looks forward to giving his evidence when the sub-committee meets after the conclusion of the civil case.

"Mike Hancock asked to meet with the council's 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."

Michael Lawther, Portsmouth City Council's city solicitor, said: "A code-of-conduct complaint against Cllr Hancock is going through the council's internal process. The process is not yet complete, and the allegations in the report remain allegations.

"The relevant sub-committee has reviewed the Pascoe report and has decided that the matter should go to a hearing at which Cllr Hancock and/or his legal advisers will have the opportunity to respond to the report, and question witnesses and Mr Pascoe."

In a statement, Mr Pascoe said the release of a redacted version of his report had been "unsatisfactory in a number of ways".

He said it did not carry the "full reasoning for my conclusions" and did "not set out the position of Mr Hancock as I perceived it to be, including a number of assumptions and comments that I set out clearly in his favour".

Mr Pascoe added that "some of my conclusions have been omitted, although I can understand why that might have been done at this moment in time. I should add that there are other redactions of a minor character which I also understand."

He said it "would be better for my full report to be published sooner rather than later".

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  71.  
    11:54: Westminster 'trip' continued... Chris Mason Political correspondent, BBC News

    "We heard of a plan to knock over the [BBC] cameraman and cause the House to be suspended, and then they would blame it on us and suggest we shouldn't be there," the documentary's reporter said, adding that parliamentary staff had let them know about the plot and had managed to prevent it from happening. He said there were "very few" opponents to the documentary being filmed at Westminster, but "in Parliament every day there are cunning plans; it is a place made for plotting and conspiracy".

    The first episode is broadcast on Tuesday 3 February on BBC Two at 21:00 GMT.

     
  72.  
    11:49: Westminster 'trip' Chris Mason Political correspondent, BBC News

    MPs plotted to knock over a BBC cameraman in the House of Commons - in the hope of stopping a new documentary on life at Westminster. The documentary maker Michael Cockerill told reporters about the plan at a press screening of his new series Inside the Commons, which starts on BBC Two next week.

    "I'm not fingering anyone by name," Mr Cockerill said, when asked who was involved in the plot. But he did say they were "right wing Tories... what Downing Street know as the berserkers - the naughty bench." He declined to name the cameraman who was the subject of the apparent skulduggery.

     
  73.  
    11:45: Actor quits Labour Party

    In Scotland, actor Brian Cox has quit the Labour Party and joined the Scottish National Party. Cox has attacked the "empty rhetoric of leading members of the [Labour] party" and says they no longer stand for social democracy, the Press Association reports.

     
  74.  
    11:41: Birmingham schools statement House of Commons Parliament
    Tristram Hunt in the Commons

    Nicky Morgan, responding to Tristram Hunt's attack on the government's education reforms, says the shadow education secretary is "absolutely wrong" to blame the coalition. The problem, she says, started "long before" 2010. Hunt, arms folded as he leans back on the frontbench, scoffs in response. Morgan wraps up by saying ministers are "building resilience into the system".

     
  75.  
    11:36: Child abuse inquiry House of Commons Parliament

    Conservative MP Tim Loughton has been pressing the government on delays in finding someone to chair its independent inquiry on child abuse. During questions to Commons Leader William Hague, Mr Loughton, a former children's minister, said there had been no announcement as promised from Home Secretary Theresa May and requested a debate. Mr Hague said Mrs May would be before MPs in the coming weeks and that the government was determined the work of the inquiry would continue while Parliament is dissolved for the general election.

     
  76.  
    11:33: Birmingham schools statement House of Commons Parliament
    Tristram Hunt in the Commons

    Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt says the government "did nothing" in response to warnings emerging from Birmingham before the 'Trojan Horse' story hit the newspapers. Hunt says there is a broader problem for which the coalition is ultimately to blame. "We do hold this government to account for a chaotic and disjointed schools policy which has increased the threat to child safety and attainment. And sadly, the government's response to this has fallen short."

     
  77.  
    PoliticsHome

    tweets: .@NickyMorgan01 says "every school shld be promoting British values, not just as bulwark against extremism but b/c it is right thing to do"

     
  78.  
    Guardian politics
    man shouting

    tweets: Clegg: next Cameron will ask the 'tea lady' to join debates bit.ly/1twXvqS

     
  79.  
    11:23: Birmingham school statement House of Commons Parliament

    Education Secretary Nicky Morgan says she has told Labour-run Birmingham council officials that "reform is too slow" - and threatens to use emergency powers allowing her to intervene if they do not make changes quickly.

     
  80.  
    11:21: Birmingham schools statement House of Commons Parliament
    Nicky Morgan

    Nicky Morgan says progress has been made since concerns about extremism in Birmingham schools emerged. The schools in question are being incorporated into broader networks in Birmingham and teachers are being investigated, the education secretary says. "We have acted swiftly," she adds.

     
  81.  
    11:17: Birmingham schools statement House of Commons Parliament

    Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is on her feet in the Commons, making a statement on Birmingham schools and the so-called Trojan Horse plot. She starts by pledging to address all the concerns which have been raised.

     
  82.  
    11:14: NHS boost 'mainly down to Labour supporters' BBC News Channel
    The Kings Fund's John Appleby

    New figures suggesting satisfaction with the NHS is at a near record high are unlikely to be the result of recent, direct experience of the service. That's according to the Kings Fund Health think-tank. The Fund's John Appleby told the BBC News Channel that the NHS rating among Labour voters was up 11%, while it was flat among Conservative supporters. Professor Appleby thought that suggested it was a vote of "solidarity" and support for the concept of the NHS.

     
  83.  
    11:11: 'Extremism' in Birmingham schools

    In the next few minutes Education Secretary Nicky Morgan will give an update on dealing with alleged extremism in Birmingham schools. Yesterday, Ofsted's chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, warned that radicals "have gone to ground" but would return in Birmingham schools unless there was extra funding to recruit better teachers.

    In June, Ofsted issued a damning verdict on the running of a number of Birmingham's schools, placing five into special measures. And this month, the Department for Education issued its own review, one of a series of investigations prompted by the so-called "Trojan Horse letter" - now widely believed to be a hoax.

    The anonymous letter, sent to the local council, referred to an alleged plot by hard-line Muslims to seize control of school governing boards in the city.

     
  84.  
    11:08: League tables explained
    girl reading

    The number of state secondary schools in England considered to be underperforming has more than doubled in a year, according to official figures. Wondering what the figures mean? The BBC News website looks at what school performance data is and what it really means.

     
  85.  
    11:08: Angela Eagle v William Hague House of Commons Parliament
    William Hague in the Commons

    William Hague gets laughs of his own as he responds to Angela Eagle in the Commons. He says Baroness Kramer's watch gaffe wasn't the best gift of the week. That honour goes to Ed Miliband, who received "the gift of being defended by the noble lord Lord Kinnock". Hague says this is a "sure sign of impending disaster", to the mirth of Tory backbenchers. "His belief that Labour is pursuing the right election strategy will be of great comfort to all of us."

     
  86.  
    11:07: Michael Gove's watch House of Commons Parliament
    Michael Gove in Downing Street

    Angela Eagle, who has presumably heard it from reliable sources, recounts an unfortunate incident during Cabinet. She says proceedings were interrupted by Michael Gove's smart watch as it played "one of Beyonce's latest hits". Eagle then turns this into a dig at Gove's absence from the Commons chamber. She gets a big laugh as she wraps up by saying dryly: "Any watch which is smart enough to play Beyonce can surely tell him when business questions is."

     
  87.  
    11:05: Angela Eagle v William Hague House of Commons Parliament
    Angela Eagle in the Commons

    A recap of business questions in the Commons. It began with shadow leader of the House Angela Eagle reviewing the week:

    • On plain packaging, she suggests the government's last-gasp U-turn to support the measure occurred because ministers realised the Conservatives' election adviser and lobbyist "Lynton Crosby wasn't looking"
    • On the NHS, Eagle highlights "overstretched hospitals" and says "the Tories' pledge to protect the NHS is now in tatters".
    • On the Lib Dems, Eagle highlights Baroness Kramer's unfortunate gaffe while on a visit to Taipei. "She gave the city's mayor a watch, which is taboo in local culture because it suggests the recipient's time is running out. She should have given it to her party leader."
     
  88.  
    @BBCNormanS Norman Smith, BBC News Assistant Political Editor

    tweets: Ed Miliband says case for Mansion Tax getting "stronger and stronger"

     
  89.  
    11:04: Voter registration
    Voting in the 2010 general election

    Labour has already claimed changes to the way voters get their names on the electoral roll mean a million fewer people are registered for the general election. Now the leader of the party's Local Government Association group has urged parliament to intervene. Cllr Jim McMahon told local government paper the MJ that councils had "been asked to do the impossible by the [Electoral] Commission". And he warned: "Whilst the current political focus is on the level of voter registration amongst students for the General Election in May 2015, the real democratic crisis will come in December 2015 when potentially millions of voters will be removed from the electoral register."

     
  90.  
    11:02: Broadcasters on the TV debates

    The BBC's Director General Tony Hall says: "We would not be fulfilling our obligations of impartiality to the voters of Northern Ireland if we were to invite one of the Northern Ireland parties but not all the others, which also have substantial support in Northern Ireland."

    Both the BBC and UTV plan dedicated debates in Northern Ireland involving all the larger parties there. The broadcasters are also reiterating that the debates will go ahead even if any of the leaders refuse to participate.

     
  91.  
    11:00: Breaking News: TV debates

    The BBC, Sky and ITN confirm they will not be inviting Northern Ireland's DUP Party to take part in the main televised debates ahead of the general election. The broadcasters are proposing three debates - one between David Cameron and Ed Miliband, and two adding Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, UKIP, the Green Party, the SNP and Plaid Cymru. The DUP had demanded to be included, but in a joint statement the broadcasters say allowing only one of the Northern Ireland parties to take part "would be unfair and discriminatory".

     
  92.  
    10:59: Clegg's 'Monster Raving Loony' jibe
    Natalie Bennett, Nigel Farage, Nick Clegg, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood

    On his LBC phone-in earlier, Nick Clegg was less than complimentary about the way his coalition partner David Cameron is approaching the proposed TV debates. Referring to the PM's calls for the Green Party, then the DUP, to be included, Mr Clegg said: "I suspect next week he will be worried about the fate of the Monster Raving Loony Party." Here's the full story of his comments.

     
  93.  
    10:43: Fracking fallout House of Commons Parliament

    Labour is going on the offensive on fracking in the Commons, as Angela Eagle criticises the government for not being open enough about its shale gas policy. Environment secretary Liz Truss holds the line: "Fracking has a huge potential to provide jobs and growth and also lower our energy costs, and that is why it's so important that we proceed with this vital technology," she says. The exchanges follow Lib Dem Tessa Munt's resignation over the issue earlier this week.

     
  94.  
    10:26: Election battlegrounds
    election map

    We may not know who will win the next general election but we do know which parts of the country will determine the fates of the political parties. The killing grounds in any general election can be found among that minority of parliamentary constituencies - marginal seats - with a history of being won or lost by parties. Here is a guide to the political battlegrounds of the 2015 general election.

     
  95.  
    10:05: Schools' record defended BBC News Channel

    Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, has defended the government's record on schools. Her comments come as new league tables show a doubling in the number of schools where less than 40% of pupils fail to get five good GCSEs, including maths and English. Speaking on the BBC News Channel, Mrs Morgan said the results reflected changes made to ensure academic standards were as rigorous as possible. More students, she said, were getting the core academic qualifications.

     
  96.  
    10:03: Commons clashes over food poverty House of Commons Parliament

    It's environment, food and rural affairs questions in the Commons, where shadow food minister Huw Irranca-Davies says one million people in Britain are going hungry while relying on food aid. He says the government is taking Britain back to the 1930s in terms of spending and attacks the "staggering complacency" of the coalition. Minister George Eustice, replying, says the government has put 1.7 million people back into work and has taken three million people out of having to pay income tax. He points out Labour's energy policy would have frozen prices which have subsequently fallen.

     
  97.  
    Danny Shaw Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: Prison sexual assault data published for first time shows 170 cases in 2013 - highest on record as are violent incidents in yr to Sep 2014

     
  98.  
    09:52: Social capital

    The Office for National Statistics has just released its first ever analysis of 'social capital'. This might sound vague but contains some findings politicians might want to bear in mind as they debate crime, care and charity issues in the election campaign...

    • 65% of people in Britain thought people in their neighbourhood could be trusted
    • 19% of people in the UK reported looking after or giving special help to someone sick, disabled or elderly in 2012/13
    • 19% of people had given unpaid help or worked as a volunteer in a local, national or international organisation or charity in the last 12 months in 2012/13

    The study also found that 49% of people in the UK reported being "very or quite interested in politics" in 2012/13. It's much more interesting in 2014/15, of course.

     
  99.  
    09:43: UKIP defence plans Robin Brant Political Correspondent, BBC News
    Nigel Farage

    The BBC's Robin Brant says UKIP is set to make defence spending a top priority as the party prepares its manifesto. It looks likely that UKIP will be the only Westminster-based party going into the election pledging to spend more on the UK's armed forces. But, as Robin also reveals, there are internal tensions over this issue.

     
  100.  
    09:42: School league tables

    More on the school league table results: This year 330 English secondary schools - up from 154 - failed to get 40% or more of their pupils attaining five good GCSEs, including maths and English. This rise comes after ministers toughened exams and banned re-sits and some vocational qualifications from school performance tables.

    Meanwhile, renowned schools such as Eton, Harrow, Winchester and St Paul's Boys' - among scores of other top private schools - have ended up bottom of the tables.

    Our online story has a map showing school performance in local areas.

    Map
     

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