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Rennard disciplinary probe resumes

The senior Liberal Democrat peer Lord Rennard is to face an internal party disciplinary inquiry into claims of sexual harassment after police said they would not press criminal charges.

The former Lib Dem chief executive - who strongly denies the allegations - welcomed the news he would not be prosecuted, describing the investigation as a "harrowing and deeply unpleasant" experience.

But the party immediately announced that the ending of the police inquiry meant that its own disciplinary process, led by Alistair Webster QC, could now resume.

"We consider the allegations made against Lord Rennard, which he strenuously denies, to be extremely serious and we can now continue with our internal inquiry into these allegations," a spokesman said.

"We would encourage anyone who has information that could be relevant to the inquiry to get in touch."

The claims relate to allegations by a number of women activists that the peer - who was a highly influential figure in Lib Dem circles - had exploited his position to make unwanted sexual advances and touch them inappropriately.

Earlier this year, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and two other Lib Dem ministers - Danny Alexander and Jo Swinson - were sharply criticised in a review of the party's handling of their complaints.

Businesswoman Helena Morrissey, who conducted the inquiry, said that there should have been a formal investigation launched when his accusers first came forward.

In a statement, Lord Rennard, who was interviewed under caution in June after voluntarily attending a police station, said he was not surprised at the decision by the police not to bring charges.

"The last eight months have been harrowing and deeply unpleasant for me, my wife Ann, my family and friends," he said.

"I am enormously thankful for the unfailing support I have received from people across the political spectrum but especially those within the Liberal Democrats who have stood by me throughout.

"My life's work has been to support good people and good causes. I hope now to be able to continue doing that."

Scotland Yard said that officers had "early investigative consultation" with the Crown Prosecution Service but that it was a police decision to take no further action.

"Following reports in the media in February, officers from the Specialist Crime and Operations Command launched an investigation into allegations of sexual touching," the force said.

"Various inquiries were conducted - including meeting with officials from the Liberal Democrat party - and a number of individuals were spoken to as part of the investigation.

"Those inquiries have now concluded that there is insufficient evidence to support a prosecution; a decision which has been made by police."


From Belfast Telegraph