Mike Hancock has settled the civil case brought against him by a constituent alleging that he sexually assaulted her (Julie Bindel outlined the case for the magazine here). In a statement released today, the MP, currently suspended as a Liberal Democrat, apologises for his behaviour. He says:
‘In October 2009 you first came to me as a constituent to seek my assistance as your MP and councillor. Subsequently and over several months I came to your home on several occasions, sometimes unannounced and conducted a friendship with you that was inappropriate and unprofessional.
‘I understand that you felt degraded. I did not treat you with sufficient respect. I made you feel deeply uncomfortable and discriminated against, and I crossed the line…
‘I can only apologise unreservedly to you for any distress, anger and worsening of your psychiatric condition that I caused.’
Hancock’s office would not comment when contacted this afternoon on whether he plans to step down as an MP (if he does go, James profiled the constituency and Ukip’s chances of winning there in a column here), or whether he’ll stand again in 2015. He has already lost his seat on the council. But if he stays, even if only for the 11 months remaining until the general election, it will be as good an illustration as any of the need for a proper power of recall. Those who have seriously campaigned for recall argue that what the Government has ended up bringing forward is seriously flawed. Hancock’s case may reinforce their argument that the bill must be amended.