The sexual harassment scandal engulfing the Liberal Democrats has moved a step closer to the law courts after the peer at the centre of the allegations instructed senior counsel to advise him.
A spokesman for Lord Rennard, the party's former chief executive, said he had instructed a QC specialising in public law to advise him on the "lawfulness or otherwise" of the decision to launch a second inquiry into his conduct.
It follows the announcement yesterday that he was being suspended from the party pending the investigation into claims that he brought the Lib Dems into disrepute by his refusal to apologise to four women activists who alleged he sexually harassed them.
He was ordered to issue the apology by Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg after an earlier inquiry by Alistair Webster QC concluded that the women's claims were credible but there was insufficient evidence to bring disciplinary charges.
Supporters of the peer dismissed the latest inquiry as no more than a "re-run" of the first.
"A senior QC specialising in public law matters has been instructed and is advising Lord Rennard as to the lawfulness or otherwise of the decision to hold a second inquiry," the spokesman said.