LONDON (AP) — Britain's Liberal Democrats suspended a member of the House of Lords from their party on Monday after he refused a suggestion that he apologize to women who have accused him of sexual harassment.
Chris Rennard, 53, was accused of molesting four women in incidents dating back to 2003 — allegations he denies. An internal inquiry found that the women's claims were credible but could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
Nick Clegg, Britain's deputy prime minister and the Lib Dem leader, had insisted Rennard apologize before retaking his seat in the House of Lords. Rennard had refused and said he would be reclaiming his seat.
Before he had his chance, the party said Monday that Rennard has been suspended pending a disciplinary procedure and that he will be investigated for "bringing the party into disrepute on the grounds of his failure to apologize, as recommended" by the internal inquiry.
"As such, he cannot return to the Liberal Democrat group in the House of Lords," the party said in a statement.
Rennard defended his decision not to apologize, saying he had never seen the report on the inquiry and that apologizing would leave him open to future civil action.
"If ever I have hurt, embarrassed or upset anyone, then it would never have been my intention and, of course, I regret that they may have felt any hurt, embarrassment or upset," he said in a statement released after his suspension.
He added that he doesn't believe that people should "be forced to say what they know they should not say or do not mean."
Rennard also expressed regret for the "wounds" recent events have opened up within his party, urging the Liberal Democrats to "let the matter rest."