Disgraced MP Mike Hancock has issued a public apology to a “vulnerable” constituent who accused him of sexual misconduct after years of denials.
The representative for Portsmouth South, who was suspended from the Liberal Democrats over the scandal and now sits as an independent, reached a settlement with the woman at the High Court in London on Wednesday.
The anonymous woman, known as “Annie”, brought a civil action against him and won the apology as part of the legal agreement.
It read: “In October 2009 you first came to me as a constituent to seek my assistance as your MP and councillor.
“Subsequently and over several months I came to your home on several occasions, sometimes unannounced and conducted a friendship with you that was inappropriate and unprofessional.
“I understand that you felt degraded. I did not treat you with sufficient respect. I made you feel deeply uncomfortable and discriminated against, and I crossed the line.”
The apology said he was “aware” of the power differential between himself as an MP and the woman as his constituent.
Mr Hancock remains in the Priory Hospital in Southampton and a psychiatric report was conducted to confirm he had “full capacity” to make the statement.
The apology continued: “Everyone should feel safe and should be able to have confidence in their political representatives and I am sorry that I made you feel otherwise.
“I have learnt from my mistakes and pledge not to act in the same way again.
“There are no words that can take back the way that I made you feel.
“I can only apologise unreservedly to you for any distress, anger and worsening of your psychiatric condition that I caused.”
Annie (not her real name) approached Mr Hancock over problems with noisy neighbours and respite care for her son.
The single mother reportedly told him about her mental health problems and over the following months he began to see Annie regularly, buy her gifts and take her for dinner.
After Annie, who did not want a sexual relationship, made details of the ordeal public, a series of denials were issued by his office.
Following his suspension from the Lib Dems in January, his spokesman said: “His spokesman said: “These matters have twice been looked at by the police, first in 2010, and in conjunction with the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service], they have found that there is no case for Mr Hancock to answer and have taken no further action.”
The apology said the 68-year-old MP accepted that the woman did not make claims “for financial gain” and she had fought for many years to hold him to account.
It continued: “I myself would have wished for it to be resolved far earlier and I am sorry that it wasn't.
“I express my deep regret to you and your son for any harm my conduct has caused you. It was never my intention to cause either of you any harm.”
Her damages action was due to go to trial this week but following mediation, both sides settled the claim on confidential terms, which included the issuing of Mr Hancock's public apology.
A statement from Annie said: “I am pleased that there has finally been a resolution to what has been a long and hurtful ordeal for me.
“Since the incidents about which I complained happened back in 2010, my physical and mental health have suffered and I am grateful that I may now have some closure to this traumatic episode in the lives of both myself and my son.”