Lord Rennard 'Refutes' Sexual Harassment Allegations

UPDATED 19:34, 26 February 2013: Details of Met Police meeting with Lib Dem representatives

Former Lib Dem chief executive Lord Rennard has issued a fresh denial in the wake of allegations that he sexually harassed women within the party.

"Lord Rennard refutes these allegations. He will co-operate with any properly constituted inquiry," a spokesperson for the peer said on Tuesday afternoon.

"He has been notified of an internal investigatory panel within the Party. The matter must now be regarded as sub judice pending its proceedings and no further statement will be issued in the interim.

"He expects others to respect the sub judice principle, and he notes that under the party rules concerned it is for any case made against him to be proved by evidence to the requisite standard. He denies impropriety.

"He would reiterate that in 27 years of working for the Liberal Democrats he received no complaint or allegation about his behaviour.

"Nor is he aware of any personal complaints being made in the three and a half years since he stood down as chief executive until last week."

The denial came as one of Rennard's accusers said the scandal had "rocked the party to the core" and that Nick Clegg "didn't deal with it well".

The woman, named only as Susan, told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme that Rennard abused his "almighty amount of power" within the party to get away with harassing women.

She told the programme the women involved were all keen to ensure their complaints did not go public and said she also did not want to "ruin" her future career chances.

She added: "It is always really difficult for anyone to come forward and I'm hoping that regardless of the bad reactions that we have had from some of the men in the party, women will come forward and will engage with the inquiries."

The former Lib Dem county councillor, who claimed on Channel 4 News last week that Lord Rennard had followed her to the toilet at a candidates' event in Peterborough and propositioned her when she came out, said she knew of nine women who claimed they have had similar experiences, dating back to 2001/2.

Later in Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police confirmed its officers met representatives of the Liberal Democrats.

In a statement, Scotland Yard said: "Officers from the Specialist Investigations Command have this afternoon met with officials in the Liberal Democrat Party at New Scotland Yard following recent media reports.

"The meeting was held to assist with our inquiries to ascertain if any criminal activity has taken place. That work continues.

"Anyone with information should contact specially trained officers on 020 8721 4601, and all information will be treated in the strictest confidence. It was agreed at the meeting that any internal misconduct matters would be referred back to the Liberal Democrat Party."

A spokesman for the party confirmed that chief executive Tim Gordon led the Lib Dem group at the meeting.

"It is important that people with information have the confidence to come forward and that their information is dealt with sensitively and appropriately," said the spokesman.

"We are working closely with the police to help establish if any criminal activity has taken place. We would encourage anyone with information to contact the police and speak to specially trained officers on 0208 721 4601.

"While we establish if criminal activity has taken place we will continue with the two inquiries set up by the party."

Meanwhile, Lib Dem care minister Norman Lamb - who was a close aide to Mr Clegg from 2010-12 - revealed that a woman had approached him some time ago with allegations about Lord Rennard, and that he advised her to speak to the party's spokeswoman for women and equality Jo Swinson.

Mr Lamb told the Eastern Daily Press: "A woman who I know and who I maintain good relations with, talked to me about (her allegations). I encouraged her to take it to Jo.

"I knew Jo was dealing with a number of women (in relation to allegations against Lord Rennard) and I know that Jo was taking it seriously.

"Jo and I both felt the same, that action had to be taken.

"She did speak to Jo, who has now made a statement saying that she referred the issue on. That resulted in action being taken in the form of (Lord Rennard) being talked to by Danny Alexander."

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