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.
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.
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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