Carmichael accused of inaction over Lib Dem claims

A WOMAN who claims to have been sexually assaulted by MP Mike Hancock has spoken of her frustration with Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael for failing to take action when he was Liberal Democrat chief whip.

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael is accused of doing too little while he was Lib Dem chief whip. Picture: Jane Barlow
Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael is accused of doing too little while he was Lib Dem chief whip. Picture: Jane Barlow

The claim against Mr Carmichael came a day after ­Alison Smith, an alleged victim of the party’s former chief ­executive Lord Rennard, alleged he also “suppressed concerns” over sexual misconduct by the peer.

The Scottish Secretary has strongly denied the claims of both women and insisted he took their complaints seriously.

The woman who says she was sexually assaulted by Mr Hancock, Lib Dem MP for ­Portsmouth South, said the ­alleged incident drove her to the brink of suicide.

She says he made “unwanted sexual approaches” towards her when she was a constituent.

He is accused of exposing himself to the woman and is also alleged to have kissed her without her consent and placed his hand on her breast.

Speaking for the first time since Mr Hancock was suspended, the woman said she believes the Liberal Democrats should “hang their heads in shame” for not taking action against him sooner.

The party suspended veteran MP Mr Hancock on Wednesday after its London headquarters obtained a copy of an independent report into his alleged ­conduct.

Mr Hancock voluntarily withdrew from the parliamentary party whip last year following the allegations and remained in the House of Commons as an ­independent MP. However, he continued to serve as a Liberal Democrat councillor on Portsmouth City Council.

The council paid Nigel Pascoe QC a total of £18,800 to investigate and report on whether Mr Hancock broke its code of ­conduct.

But members delayed taking action pending the outcome of a civil case which the woman, a vulnerable constituent, has lodged against him for sexual assault.

The woman – a mother in her thirties who cannot be named for legal reasons – said she considered suicide but the thought of what that would do to her son “kept her strong”.

She says she lives with the memories of having to bring up what is alleged to have happened with Cllr Hancock “every day”.

She said: “I’ve thought to myself, maybe I should take my own life, but I have got a son to think of. It has made me ­depressed.”

The woman criticised Mr Carmichael whom she approached in February last year.

She said she was frustrated the Lib Dems had not taken action after she gave evidence to the party’s then-chief whip Mr ­Carmichael.

She spoke to him following Cllr Hancock’s resignation of the parliamentary whip and his move to become an independent MP last year.

She said: “I was overwhelmed that Nick Clegg has decided to do something about it. But considering Alistair Carmichael had quite a lot of ­information to go with, something should have been done then.”

But a spokeswoman for Mr Carmichael said last night he had taken the allegations very seriously and done everything required of him by the party.

She said: “In February 2013, the Lib Dem party received notification of legal proceedings against Mike Hancock and the party ­received detailed allegations.

“In March, Alistair met with the complainant and the complainant’s legal representatives.

“In June, Nick Clegg, Simon Hughes, the deputy leader, and Alistair Carmichael, the party whip, met Mr Hancock to discuss the allegations.

“A report was written but following that meeting, Hancock resigned and was no longer subject to the whip. We’re now in a position where civil action has been taken.

“Alistair did what he was asked to do by the party and took it very seriously.

“He met with both parties and then leader, deputy leader and chief whip met with Hancock. We’ve taken all this very seriously.”

The spokeswoman also pointed out that Ms Smith had recently deleted a tweet where she claimed Mr Carmichael had “suppressed concerns” about Lord Rennard.

Mr Hancock denies allegations that he sexually abused the woman in Portsmouth.