20 Jan 2014

Lord Rennard statement: I will not offer an apology

In a lengthy and personal statement, Lib Dem peer Lord Rennard again refutes allegations of sexual impropriety, saying: “It is impossible to describe how enormously distressed I am by this situation.”

Lord Rennard and the House of Lords

Despite being suspended by the party pending a disciplinary procedure, Lord Rennard continued to defy calls from the leadership, and the QC who investigated the allegations of sexual impropriety against him, for an apology.

In his statement he says: “I will not offer an apology to the four women complainants. I do not believe that people should be forced to say what they know they should not say, or do not mean.”

He also notes that his legal advice is that “any apology would leave me defenceless in a future civil action”.

He goes further, in describing how one of the women now making complaints against him had met him and Baroness Scott – then Lib Dem party president – in January 2011.

Lord Rennard says that at that meeting three years ago he told her: “If there is anything that I have ever said or done that caused you any harm or embarrassment in any way, then that was not my intention.”

He continues: “We did not discuss what may have caused this upset at any point, but my expression in front of Baroness Scott, was clearly accepted.”

He also says that an offer of formal mediation that he made in October 2013 was “completely rejected by the ‘complainants'”.

‘Trial by media’

Writing bitterly of being subjected to a “trial by media and a ‘lynch mob’ mentality from some in the party who knew none of the facts”, Lord Rennard described how he and his wife Ann had to stay in hiding for “some weeks” after the news of the allegations against him was broadcast by Channel 4 News in February 2013.

He says that after his offer of mediation was rejected last October, he felt “threatened and bullied by wild rumours that there were many people who would complain against me.”

Having stressed the many years of service he had given the Liberal Democrats during more than 40 years of membership – at some points to the detriment of his health – Lord Rennard writes: “I have not spoken to, met with, or heard from Nick Clegg in eleven months. I would ask him, now that he has more knowledge of the facts, to ask for any threat to me to be withdrawn… and to let me help him and my party again in future.”

Attempted rule change?

Lord Rennard also revealed that he threatened legal action during the investigation when there were, in his words, “various attempts to change the rules” of the party.

Last week Alistair Webster QC found that there was insufficient evidence to meet the high burden of proof (beyond reasonable doubt) that is required by party rules to institute a disciplinary hearing.

Lord Rennard says in his statement: “Fortunately, I was familiar with the rules of the English party’s complaints procedures which were introduced in 2008. There were various attempts to change these rules, but with the help of Alex Carlile, I was able only with the threat of legal action to say that the inquiry should begin as prescribed in the rules.”

Lord Rennard says once the investigation was complete he was denied access to the report, which he insists the rules allow him to see, on what he describes as “strange” grounds of concerns over the data protection act:

“I have been advised firmly that there is no legal basis for refusing me a copy.”

Past ‘smear’ campaigns

Lord Rennard alleges that in 2009 he was the subject of a “smear campaign” over his House of Lords allowances, timed to clash with the run-up to the elections when he was central to major Lib Dem campaigns. He notes that in October of that year he was exonerated by the House of Lords authorities.

He also says how, following “more personal allegations” in 2010, he sank into a deep depression and considered “self harm”.