According to the reports, the private office of Nick Clegg, the head of Lib Dems, had been made aware of the claims as long as five years ago that former party chief Chris Rennard had been sexually abusing several female activists, while in office.
Amid mounting claims of a cover-up, evidence was growing that senior party officials ran an organised campaign to silence the women and shut down an internal investigation in a bid to bury the crime altogether, British media reported.
Senior authorities at the Liberal Democratic Party, which is junior partner to the UK’s coalition government, had dismissed a female activist and forced her to ink a gagging order after she tried to blow the whistle on Lord Rennard, The Daily Mail reported.
“Another woman, who claims that she was sexually harassed by Lord Rennard, described to the The Daily Mail how the party offered a bizarre form of ‘restorative justice’ in which she could confront him in private about the impact of his actions”, the report said.
However, she refused and, after threatening to go the Press, was told she had no longer had a future in the party.
According to the report a “third woman, who claims she was sexually assaulted at his London home, revealed the ‘Kafkaesque’ nightmare she experienced when she tried to report the incident to senior Lib Dems”.
Under intense pressure, the deputy prime minister was forced to order an internal probe into the sexual harassment and groping claims. But, Clegg claimed that he did not know anything about these specific cases.
At least ten women have now made complaints about the behaviour of Lord Rennard, who denies wrongdoing. The women said their claims had not been taken seriously by the party leadership.
A prominent Lib Dem has likened the party’s handling of the allegations to the way the BBC dealt with the Jimmy Savile scandal.
“There is a gulf both in the severity and scale of the allegations. But there is also a potentially worrying similarity – that just as the BBC turned a blind eye to the alleged offences of one of its stars, so too did the Lib Dems”, said Stephen Tall, co-editor of grassroots website Lib Dem Voice.
“The party has to acknowledge the seriousness not only of the allegations themselves, but also the alleged cover-up”, he added.