High Court official rules alleged victim should feel she had a 'fair crack of the whip' in case against Lib Dem councillor
The alleged sexual assault victim of MP Mike Hancock has won the right to see a full version of an independent QC's report about her accusations.
Portsmouth city council, the Lib Dem-led authority where Hancock is a councillor, opposed the application at the high court. A redacted version of the QC's report was first extensively reported in the Guardian last month. The development means that the alleged victim will have the right to see Hancock's comments to the QC for the first time.
Master Leslie, a high court official, ruled she should feel she had "a fair hearing and a fair crack of the whip".
Earlier on Friday, Nick Clegg insisted he "acted immediately" over the allegations – even though his party was sent the allegations from the claimant's solicitor three years ago.
On Friday the Portsmouth South MP Hancock, who denies the allegations, carried out his first official business since being suspended from the party on Wednesday.
Nigel Pascoe QC's report into allegations of sexual misconduct towards a female constituent with mental health issues had not been officially published but the Liberal Democrat-led council must now make it available to her.
In the report, Pascoe said the woman deserved "compassion and respect" and the account she gave was "credible", and was highly critical of Hancock. Pascoe also concluded that his report should be released in full.
Lawyers acting for the alleged sexual assault victim of the MP had asked the high court to force the full disclosure of the report at a forthcoming civil court action.
Speaking after the ruling, the woman's solicitor said her client had faced "barrier after barrier" to having her allegations heard.
Harriet Wistrich, from the law firm Birnberg Peirce, said the document would form part of a civil claim she was making against Hancock.
She also criticised the conduct of Portsmouth's Liberal Democrat councillors.
"They've taken a very very obstructive approach to this complaint being looked at properly and I think their conduct is really up for question," she said.
Hancock resigned the parliamentary party whip last year but was still sitting as a Lib Dem local councillor.
Clegg, who is also facing criticism over the handling of separate sexual harassment allegations against Lord Rennard, said he had acted last year as soon as he heard a civil case was being brought against his MP.
"When I was given the specific allegations at the beginning of last year I immediately asked our chief whip to investigate," he said. "As a result Mike Hancock ceased to be a Lib Dem MP.
"When those allegations were then supported by the QC's report that has come to light this week again we acted immediately and Mike Hancock has been suspended from the Lib Dems altogether."
Clegg insists he only learnt of the claims against Hancock earlier this week when documents were leaked on to the internet.
But Clegg's explanation has been challenged by the alleged victim who says she first wrote to the Liberal Democrats' London headquarters by recorded delivery in March 2011. She then recorded a telephone call to the headquarters in which she specifically asked why Clegg had not responded to her first letter.
Hancock left Portsmouth Guildhall after chairing a brief meeting of the council's planning committee. On the agenda, he was still listed as a Liberal Democrat.
Following a private meeting this evening, Portsmouth City Council's Liberal Democrat group said Mr Hancock would retain his seat on the council's cabinet.
"This was decided because councillor Hancock is best placed to fulfil the role of cabinet member for planning, regeneration and economic development," the group said in a statement.
It went on: "Councillor Mike Hancock no longer remains a member of the Portsmouth city council Liberal Democrat group because, having had his membership suspended by the party at national level, it is not possible for him to remain a member of the city council group until the suspension is lifted.
"The group acknowledges that the suspension has been imposed before the issue to which suspension relates has been properly and fairly determined through due process in the courts.
"The group decided that the Independent councillor Mike Hancock should retain his seat on the cabinet of the city çouncil."