Nick Clegg urges Lord Rennard to apologise
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has increased pressure on the party's former chief executive, Lord Rennard, to apologise following an inquiry into allegations he sexually harassed activists.
The internal investigation found the claims could not be proved beyond doubt but evidence against him was "broadly credible" and he should say sorry.
Mr Clegg told LBC Radio it was a matter of "great regret" he had not done so.
But Lord Rennard's legal adviser said there was no reason to apologise.
The peer resigned the party whip last year amid claims he made unwanted sexual advances to several women and touched them inappropriately, but he remains a member of its main policy-making body.
He has always denied the allegations.
An internal inquiry launched by the Lib Dems concluded that there was broadly credible evidence dating back several years of "behaviour which violated the personal space and autonomy of the complainants".
The party's internal disciplinary procedures require guilt to be established beyond reasonable doubt.
But the inquiry's chairman, Alistair Webster QC, said it was "unlikely that it could be established beyond reasonable doubt that Lord Rennard had intended to act in an indecent or sexually inappropriate way".
"Without proof of such an intention, I do not consider that such a charge would be tenable," he stated.
Mr Webster's report has not been made publicly available, although its findings have been outlined. Lord Rennard has not been issued with a copy, leading to complaints from his legal team.
Speaking on his weekly phone-in show on LBC, Mr Clegg said the findings of the report meant Lord Rennard "should apologise. It's not just me saying that."
Discussing Mr Webster's inquiry, he added: "He said there, in his view, wasn't enough evidence to clear the threshold of what is, in effect, the criminal burden of proof in order for him to recommend action, but he felt there was clear evidence the women were speaking with credibility, that they should be believed, that they were subject to behaviour which was distressing, that Chris Rennard should reflect on his behaviour and he should apologise.
"I think it is a matter of very great regret, to put it mildly, that so far at least he hasn't chosen to apologise. I've apologised on behalf of the party."
Mr Clegg said the women who had made the complaints against Lord Rennard were "not being given the apology that they rightly deserve".
He added: "At the end of the day, if someone is not prepared to do the decent thing and apologise I cannot frogmarch them to do so, but I would nonetheless appeal to their basic decency to do it."
Mr Clegg said Lord Rennard would not have any role in the party's 2015 election campaign.
'No case to answer'
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, one of the women who accused Lord Rennard of inappropriately touching her, Alison Smith, described the outcome of the inquiry as "a bit of a fudge that doesn't seem to please anybody and raises more questions than it answers".
She added that Lord Rennard had not apologised to her, and said "it would be a very good start" if he did.
Lord Rennard's legal adviser, Lord Carlile, said: "Lord Rennard has always denied that he did anything wrong."
He added that the inquiry had found "not only was there no case to answer applying the criminal standard of proof, but no case to answer applying a lower standard of proof".
Asked if the peer would apologise, Lord Carlile replied: "No, because there's no reason why he should, because he's denied these allegations, which have not been tried."
He said the party had not allowed him or Lord Rennard to see a copy of the report.
A Lib Dem spokeswoman said Lord Rennard's legal team had been shown the evidence on which the report, which had been presented to the party's policy committee, was based.
But, at the moment, there were no plans to give Lord Rennard a copy of the report, she added.