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Friends of Lib Dem peer threaten legal action

Friends of the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Rennard have threatened the party's hierarchy with legal action if they fail to readmit him to the House of Lords after he was embroiled in a scandal over sexual harassment, reports the BBC.

The Liberal Democrat peer has stood accused of sexual harassment by several women, allegations that led to him resigning the party whip last year, effectively ending his involvement in frontline politics.

However, the peer remains a member of the Liberal Democrat policymaking group, and he is now seeking to return to the Lords.

The Liberal Democrats launched an internal inquiry last year after the media highlighted a number of claims made against Lord Rennard by women who had worked with him over the course of many years.

The inquiry, headed by Alistair Webster QC, found credible evidence that Lord Rennard had indulged in behaviour that violated the personal space and autonomy of those who had made complaints.

The inquiry also found that the evidence against him was less than beyond reasonable doubt, the benchmark required for formal sanctions according to the Liberal Democrat internal disciplinary procedure.

As a result, the inquiry concluded that Lord Rennard should apologise to those he had offended and make a concerted effort to change his behaviour.

Now allies of the peer claim that he has effectively been cleared by the party of any formal wrongdoing, he should not have to apologise.

"There's no reason why he should (apologise)," said Lord Carlisle, legal adviser to Lord Rennard.

Lord Rennard himself had previously Tweeted that he had offered apologies to women in the past, but found them rebuffed. He said that now a disciplinary process had been undertaken an apology was inappropriate.

"An appeal and further legal actions are threatened, so I could not apologise in any event even if justified (which it is not)," he Tweeted.

"It would damage the women and the party much more if I said any more," he added. The posts were later deleted from his account.

Lord Rennard is considering returning to the Lords today, a move which could spark fresh disciplinary procedures if an apology is not forthcoming.