Sal Brinton writes…How the party is addressing members’ concerns over harassment complaints

The Federal Board of the Liberal Democrats has met to discuss the concerns expressed by members of the party over the last few days. We considered what action should be taken to address these concerns, and also to let members know about changes that are in progress already.

I want to start by thanking everybody who has spoken up about harassment and sexual assault over the last few days. I know, from personal experience in the media when I was younger, that it is insidious, pervasive and demeaning and the effects never really leave you. Vince Cable and I remain very clear that there is no place for harassment and sexual assault inside the Liberal Democrats and we must have a zero tolerance approach to it.

That is why the serious allegations made by some members relating to rape and assaults in a case that is currently under investigation are very serious. Because the case is under way at the moment, the party cannot comment. However, we can look at some of the concerns raised by the complainants about where the process may have failed. That is urgent, and the Board recognises this.

Early in 2017 the Federal Board asked Lord Ken Macdonald, former Director of Public Prosecutions, to carry out a review of our current disciplinary processes for two reasons. Firstly, following the Morrissey Review the party constantly reviews its processes, but the Board was also  concerned to hear that some cases appeared to take too long, and that some processes were inconsistent. Ken was asked to think radically about a new process that would be seen as independent, fair, faster and accountable. The snap General Election halted the evidence he was taking, but the report is now nearing conclusion and will be presented to the Board in December, published to the party in January and then changes presented formally to Spring Conference.

We believe that many of the issues raised over the last few days are being considered, but there are some specific problems raised by the complainants in their case that we believe should be addressed, and the Board has agreed to ask Isabelle Parasram, a party member and barrister, to investigate these and report back swiftly to Ken Macdonald so he can consider and incorporate any recommendations that Isabelle Parasram may wish to make. These areas include support in the process for the complainants; anonymity for complainants; reporting serious crimes to the police; suspension of members following serious allegations and also, in light of Carl Sergeant’s death, how the party can support members appropriately who are accused of serious allegations.

Isabelle Parasram will have a member of support staff at HQ to help her with coordinating interviews and discussions, and the email address for the investigation is [email protected]uk

Jeanne Tarrant, our Pastoral Care Officer, remains available for complainants who need support. I want to make clear that, despite some comments online, she is not part of the disciplinary process: that is carried out by members. Jeanne can ask for special arrangements for a disciplinary hearing to ensure that complainants worried about their safety do not have to give evidence in front of the defendant. She has also accompanied them to hearings to provide that support, as well as keeping them up to date on where the process is. If you need to get in touch with her because you are a victim of harassment or assault or bullying, please do so: [email protected]org.uk

Comments on this post will be pre-moderated.

* Baroness Sal Brinton is President of the Liberal Democrats. She is a working Lib Dem peer, and was the candidate for Watford at the 2010 and 2005 General Elections.

Read more by or more about , , , or .
This entry was posted in News.
Advert

4 Comments

  • The action being taken will reassure members that the party does take its duty of care seriously for victims and for alleged perpetrators.

  • Is it appropriate to encourage all historic instances of harassment or assault or even concerns about individuals to be reported to the pastoral care officer? Is she equipped to handle and collate reports against individuals within the party and identify patterns of behaviour? I’m inclined to think we should be encouraging members to report all historical instances of concern to an appropriate body so that we can take action against those who are making our party a hostile, uncomfortable environment for some. I’m thinking we need a mailing to all members that can lead to the identification of problematic individuals and appropriate handling of those individuals.

    It needs a big gesture to restore confidence.

  • Stephan Breban 12th Nov '17 - 8:59am

    Little and late. Not too little and not too late.

    There is a lot of confusion and a lot of ambiguity among certain parties.A lot of people are complaining that they don’t know where the line is drawn. I have my views, as I am sure we all do, but some clear guidelines are essential. As a school governor and a youth rugby coach you are given very clear guideline. Appropriately more stringent than for the wider public. Anyone in a position of authority, in ay work place has a responsibility to their employers and the people they oversee. To take advantage of a position of authority is wrong. Plain and simple. Flirting is a far more ambiguous prospect.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

This post has pre moderation enabled, please be patient whilst waiting for it to be manually reviewed. Liberal Democrat Voice is made up of volunteers who keep the site running in their free time.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User Avatarexpats 12th Nov - 10:43am
    OnceALibDem 12th Nov '17 - 10:26am...I don't recall that but Tim said there would be a Tory 'landslide victory' in 2017 and that Labour had...
  • User AvatarOnceALibDem 12th Nov - 10:26am
    But the election wasn't unexpected. Tim had called for their to be an early election and the party had put many measures in place to...
  • User Avatarfrankie 12th Nov - 10:26am
    Why are the Lib Dems in the position they are, simple because the leadership and the majority of the party blinded by the prospect of...
  • User AvatarPeter 12th Nov - 10:01am
    Is net migration of around a quarter of a million per year not enough?
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 12th Nov - 9:53am
    @David Evans, I partly agree with you. The UK Govt did borrow some money from the USA in US dollars to finance the war effort....
  • User Avatarexpats 12th Nov - 9:46am
    ............... I would be sat at two in the morning in the smoky front room of Nick Clegg’s flat in south west Sheffield, as the...