- Lib Dems voted to suspend investigation against QC’s advice
- Panel was told: It’s not legal and could cost taxpayers £50,000
- But they still blocked probe after request from Hancock
Liberal Democrat members of Portsmouth Council’s standards committee voted to suspend an investigation into MP and councillor Mike Hancock in spite of categoric legal advice to the contrary, according to documents seen by Scrapbook.
Mike Hancock’s solicitors wrote to city authorities asking them to suspend their investigation into serious sexual harassment. But the council’s own legal adviser Ian Wise QC told the standards sub-committee that such a move would almost certainly be overturned by the courts:
“There would be a very strong likelihood that Birnberg Pierce would issue judicial review proceedings on [the alleged victim's] behalf”
“The cost to the local authority of defending such an application, bearing in mind the probability that the council would have to bear both side’s costs, would be between £20-£50,000″
“Such bad publicity would not only have political ramifications but would also reflect badly on the reputation of Portsmouth City Council who, if they fought such a hopeless case would be liable to heavy criticism from a High Court judge”
Coming in addition to legal expenses of £31,736 accrued by the end of last year, the decision underscores the profligate attitude to Portsmouth council tax payers’ money when it comes to defending Hancock.
The QC’s note does offer further explanation as to the Lib Dems’ motivation for suspending the probe, with the observation that “all that would be achieved would be a slight delay of a few months in the progress of the investigation.
Did we mention that there are council elections in May?
THE LEGAL ADVICE IN FULL