15 Jan 2014

No disciplinary hearing for Lord Rennard

The Lib Dems will not be pursuing a disciplinary hearing into Lord Rennard, despite Nick Clegg declaring that his party had let down women for two decades.

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Alistair Webster QC had been carrying out inquiries for several months into allegations – first reported on Channel 4 News – that the senior Lib Dem peer had abused his power by behaving inappropriately towards women.

But last night a party committee was told that a full-scale hearing wasn’t justified.

A party source told me that to qualify for such a hearing, there would have to be at least a 50 per cent chance of the peer having brought the party into disrepute.

In other words, the burden of proof is too high to proceed.

The women who first made the allegations told me this afternoon that they were furious. “What they are saying is they don’t think any of the stuff I knew to be true is important,” one said.

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A statement of Alistair Webster QC’s conclusions has been issued by the Lib Dems.

In it he says “Let me be clear from the outset that the evidence suggests that Lord Rennard’s behaviour has caused distress to a number of women, so much so that they came forward several years after the events in question.”

But he concludes that, given the need for proof beyond reasonable doubt, “my view judging the evidence as a whole, is that there is a less than 50 per cent chance that a charge against Lord Rennard could be proved to the requisite standard.”

In response the Lib Dem President Tim Farron said in a statement:

“As a party we have no choice but to accept Alistair Webster QC’s conclusions, but that does not mean I am content. Nick Clegg and I are clear that we need to look again at our disciplinary procedures.”

Mr Farron continues: “While this process has not found to a criminal standard of proof that Lord Rennard acted with indecent intent, it is clear that he did not behave in the way that a Chief Executive should behave.

“Lord Rennard must reflect on his actions and apologise to the women involved.”

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14 reader comments

  1. Tony Gillings says:

    No Cathy, what they are clearly saying is that the complaints cannot or have not been supported with evidence. Without evidence, no action can be taken because you cannot act against an individual without proof that that individual has contravened rules or acted in a manner that has brought (an organisation) into disrepute.
    Hearsay and rumour are totally insufficient to bring action against a person. Furthermore, if the accusations have not been submitted formally, using established formal grievance procedures, and an investigation has turned up no solid evidence, what are they supposed to do?
    We don’t put people on trial and we don’t discipline people without evidence.
    Like it or not thems the rules!
    If someone has a complaint – let them come forward and make a formal complaint, and provide evidence to support that complaint. Otherwise, they should get over it.

  2. roger burchell says:

    How much money has Rennard given to the Libdems?

  3. Nick Winch says:

    Well, to refuse to show Chris Rennard or his legal representative a copy of Alastair Webster’s report and then to expect him publicly to apologise about its findings is a bit rich and rather contrary to a party which I also thought believed in the principle of justice and the presumption of innocence. Lord Carlile rather comprehensively dealt with the hectoring (and unlistening) tone of Cathy Newman’s interviewing technique. Perhaps she realised she was, actually, try to skate on ice which had effectively cracked underneath her.

  4. John Bowman says:

    Alistair Webster says that there is not a realistic prospect of a conviction of Reynard based on the criminal burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt. That is not to say that the same evidence would not have provided a realistic prospect of a conviction based on the lesser standard of the balance of probabilities. That is the point that Cathy was trying to make to Lord Carlile, a point that Alistair Webster seems to clearly endorse in his statement. Reynard does seem to have a case to answer based on the balance of probabilities and it is ridiculous that the Lib Dems have the criminal burden of proof as their yardstick for internal complaints. It appears that Reynard’s behavior would have led to an industrial tribunal if it had happened in the workplace but not within their party. Embarrassing to say the least.

  5. Antony Westron says:

    Why should Lord Rennard apologise, he has been convicted of no crime, no civil case has been sucessfully brought against him. The Lib Dems are too cowardly to public support him as they don’t want to lose womens votes. I generally feel that C4, news is the most balanced and fairminded, but the report tonight was shockingly one-sided. It is not C4 new’s job to try and convict only to report the facts. It is a fact that several women have made allegations against Lord Rennard, but C4 news is reporting those allegations as fact, but they are not proven. This seems to part of a worrying trend where all news outlets presume guilt where accusations of sexual mis-conduct are made.

  6. Eamon McMahon says:

    I watched tonight’s programme as I have done virtually since inception, ie about 30 years and it normally has the right approach to what is important but every so often produces a real dud, and tonights agenda beggared belief.l have to say what a non topic to devote about 25 mins to , which is about half the programme’s remit, for what?
    I am no Liberal Democrat , in fact i find it difficult to take them seriously most of the time but to give such profile to some dubious, unproven , ( not even on the balance of probability according to the report never mind the criminal requirement ,beyond reasonable doubt) allegations which , on any scale of what goes on today ( see the following report on Peterborugh sexual assualts) is very much at the shallow end, if there.
    Cathy Newman was embarassing in her interview with Lord Carlile, who thoroughly wiped the floor with her. She refused to take on board what the man said for if she had , she was all too aware it destroyed the whole basis of C4 News decision to run with this non story
    Without Carlile there to give a balance to a totally skewed/ biased news agenda we would not have been made aware that
    1. Rennard was not to be allowed to see this report ( a better question to ask Farron was why , not demanding he give mea culpas on Rennards behalf). Did C4 news see the report, astonishing if you havent and still led with it.
    2. that the report stated that even on the civil basis of balance of probability these allegations didnt stand up
    3. that the allegations were supported by 4 people and Rennard had the support of over 100 testimonies refuting these allegations

    Newman ought to allow her prejudices ( or the editor’s) to remain concealed and devote her / the programme’s energies to uncovering and reporting real news

    The more i think about it the more ridiculous it appears! Puts me in mind of the university’s women’s
    group mindset.

  7. Brian Gale says:

    Tony is quite correct. Lord Carlile & Alistair Webster both explained clearly the situation regarding the burdens of proof in the English legal system, but you were so preoccupied with interrupting that you failed to understand what they were saying – and, indeed, the text above indicates that you have still not grasped the principle that is at issue. The “more-than-50%” level of proof is the LOWER level – and the view of the legal professionals is that the case against Lord Rennard did not reach even this lower level. So the fact that the Lib-Dem disciplinary procedure requires proof to reach the HIGHER level was, in practice, irrelevant in this case.

  8. Rob says:

    “…they should get over it.”

    There you have it. I look forward the the LibDem evisceration at the next election.

  9. Phlip Edwards says:


    If “Lord” Retard is guilty of anything then he deserves all he gets.

    But our imperfect democratic legal system says an accused is innocent until proved guilty. We either believe in it or we don’t. You can’t be half a virgin.

    Speaking entirely personally, I wouldn’t trust the guy to say “Hello.” However, suspicion is not evidence. Sadly for these girls, it’s as basic as that.

    As for the Cleggies…..what did you expect?

    1. Philip says:

      “our imperfect democratic legal system “….I’m confused. Do you mean that if we believe someone to be guilty despite the evidence or where there is a lack of evidence, they should be found guilty? Or should we decide on the basis of what appears in the media? Or on someone’s class?
      (I realise you’ll say that class/relative wealth does affect how people get treated under out legal system – and I don’t disagree. But this was an investigation carried out inside an organisation, not criminal proceedings…..and I suspect it turned out inconveniently for many of the party’s top brass. Most organisations carrying out reviews of this sort use the civil test – “balance of proof” which takes you into the 50/50 territory. I don’t see how you could reasonably find someone guilty on evidence that pointed to, say, a 30:70 likelihood that the events could be proved.)
      And though the legal system is imperfect (mainly because access/treatment & sentencing do appear to be influenced by station in life & relative wealth, I’d rather take my chances here than in Russia, China, or the US for that matter.

  10. Milo says:

    I have no allegiance to either the Lib Dems or Lord Rennard I just can’t see the issue that you are bombarding my Facebook/twitter with.
    If the quality of evidence presented is less than the standard to pass the 50% rule what do you propose we do? If say there is a 60% chance that he will be proved innocent, more than half, should he be found guilty anyway? Please explain further this ‘technicality’ around burden of proof as I seem to be missing it.

  11. Ronald Porteous says:

    Miss Newman’s interview with Lord Carlyle was very unprofessional.
    Clearly she felt emotionally involved in the subject for some reason, and behaved in a very unprofessional manner, by constantly interrupting, and not listening to his answers.
    She was made to look very foolish.
    Perhaps Mr Snow would have been more logical and rational in his questioning.

  12. Neil Craig says:

    I sent this letter to most of Britain’s national papers but unfortunately it fell short of the literary standards required of letter writers (that or they are censoring anybody in UKIP criticising our beloved traditional parties and who could believe our honourable journalist corps could do that)? However since they don’t want it I thought it might be of interest to those who want to know what is and isn’t allowed behind the curtains of politics:

    I see that LibDem leader Nick Clegg has said that Lord Rennard should “apologise” to the 4 female party members who complained of his sexual assaults. Fortunately none of them are among the party’s female MPs, one of whom has been widely quoted as saying “you have to put up with it if you want to get on in the party”. Party president Tim Farron has said that none of this warrants expulsion.

    I found this of interest since some years ago I was expelled from that party.

    The accusation against me was that I support classic liberal principles such as economic and personal liberty (the clue is in the word). I believe that with less government interference we would have a more successful economy – closer to the 6% annual growth rate of the non-EU world. I was the only person at Conference to speak directly against the passive smoking ban as illiberal. I supported nuclear power and warned that closing Hunterston in 2009 would risk blackouts.

    Despite a spirited defence this traditional liberalism was deemed “illiberal and incompatible with party membership” and presumably still is. Lord Rennard must be pleased that his liberalism is so much more acceptable to a Pseudo-Liberal party which has forgotten its roots. I am pleased to now be in a more liberal, in the political meaning, party.

    Neil Craig

    Prospective UKIP candidate, Glasgow North

  13. Philip Edwards says:


    This gets more farcical by the day, typical sandal-wearing Cleggies. They’d sell their LibDem behind to a barrow boy in Covent Garden if they needed to.

    If “Lord” Retard has broken their party rules and/or brought them into disrepute – EXPEL HIM. Then he could sue the party, then it would get legal, then the girls would have their day in court. One guess as to whether Retard would want to see his underwear washed in public.

    It’s a safe bet the Cleggies are praying this will just fade away. I hope the girls don’t let that happen. But they’ll need an awful lot more than their allegations if they’re to force Clegg out of his current funk.

Comments are closed.