Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rennard Fallout Leaves Clegg Reeling as Alleged Victim Hints She May Sue

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rennard Fallout Leaves Clegg Reeling as Alleged Victim Hints She May Sue

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Murphy Political Editor

NICK Clegg was engulfed in a blizzard of fresh legal threats today as the Lord Rennard furore spiralled out of control.

While the Lib-Dem peer appeared set to launch an injunction against the party, an alleged victim turned the tables by threatening to sue Lord Rennard in the civil courts.

Bridget Harris, a former adviser to Deputy Premier Mr Clegg, said she would not rule out legal action against the peer, who she says touched her legs and knees inappropriately over a cup of coffee in 2003. "We're taking the process one step at a time," she said.

"In terms of civil action, how can I possibly say what I would or wouldn't do, depending on the circumstances?" The peer met his lawyer Lord Carlile this morning to consider a possible bid to torpedo the Liberal Democrats' latest investigation into whether he brought the party into disrepute. An injunction halting such action pending a review could be served within 48 hours, revealed friends.

One said that Ms Harris's threat to sue showed Lord Rennard had been right to refuse to apologise in the first place, and added: "It confirms what Lord Rennard thought, which is that if he did apologise, not that he thinks he should, he would have laid himself open to civil legal action."

The nightmare prospect of an expensive and morale-sapping series of legal disputes follows a series of fudged attempts by Mr Clegg's party to make the scandal go away.

Lord Rennard, the former party chief executive regarded as the Lib-Dems' greatest election strategist, denies he behaved inappropriately towards the women.

Initially, the complaints were handled informally by Mr Clegg's team which hoped to hush up the affair. However, that backfired when the angry women went public, humiliating Mr Clegg. The party then called an inquiry by QC Alistair Webster, but the outcome last week was another muddle. It ruled that there was not enough evidence to justify disciplinary action, but recommended Lord Rennard apologise for making the women feel uncomfortable.

He refused, saying he could not admit guilt he did not feel, resulting in his suspension last night and a new investigation that could lead to him being expelled altogether from the party. …

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