A HAMPSHIRE MP has issued a public apology to a female constituent over an “inappropriate and unprofessional friendship”.

Mike Hancock, who is currently an in-patient at the Priory in Marchwood, issued the “unreserved” apology at London’s High Court to a single mother known as “Annie” who first visited him in October 2009 to seek his assistance as her MP and local councillor.

Solicitors for the woman announced in a statement that the apology was part of a ''confidential settlement'' in which the ''vulnerable woman'', who suffers from mental health problems, brought a claim for damages against him.

The civil case was brought against Mr Hancock, a former Liberal Democrat and now an independent MP for Portsmouth South, in 2011.

Mr Hancock said in a statement addressed to the woman: ''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 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.

''As a political representative there is a significant power differential with any constituent seeking help and particularly with you given your vulnerability of which I was aware.

''You had a right to trust me. 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.''

The apology was described as ''extensive and profound'' by the woman's solicitors Birnberg Peirce and Partners, who also called for Parliament to now consider further regulation to cover relationships between MPs and constituents.

Master Leslie, a High Court official who approved the settlement in a ten-minute hearing, was told that Mr Hancock was currently an in-patient at the Priory Hospital in Southampton, and a psychiatric report had been obtained to confirm he had capacity to make his statement.

Her solicitors described ''Annie'' - not the woman's real name - as a single mother who suffers from mental health problems.

She brought her damages claim against the MP for his inappropriate behaviour four years ago, which had ''caused damage to her mental health'', said Birnberg Peirce.