Tag Archives: disciplinary processes

The people who will make the new party complaints system work

As  Lead Adjudicator for the new party complaints system I am writing to introduce the people who will make it work. 

The great strength of successful political parties lies with their members.  In our party it is the members who campaign, make policy, choose our leaders and, to a great extent, run the party.  We have more than 100,000, but all our members are human beings and subject to human frailties.  As a result, it is a sad reality that members will from time to time do things and be accused of things that bring the party into disrepute.

After years of debate a new system for handling complaints has been created.  You can read about it in Alice Thomas’s excellent post, and I wanted to introduce you to the volunteers who will make the new system work.

The first thing to make clear is that there is no ‘complaints supremo’.  The new system breaks up the tasks involved so that each decision in the process of determining complaints is made by an independent person appointed in a way that ensures that there is no perception that panels are hand-picked or results pre-ordained.

The largest number of volunteers are the Adjudicators.  All are members of the party and they have a wide range of experiences.  At various points in the process of each complaint an Adjudicator will assess the severity of a Complaint and how it is will be handled and in most cases a different three Adjudicators will later sit on a Complaints Panel to decide whether to uphold or dismiss the complaint.  Adjudicators are permitted to stand as candidates for the Party or hold office at a Local Party level, but are barred from holding office elsewhere in the Party.

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The new complaints process goes live on 1st July

It’s a good year to be a Lib Dem: we’ve gained thousands of new members, hundreds of council seats and 15 new MEPs because we are united while the Tories and Labour tear themselves apart from within. No party is immune to mistakes though and that’s why I’m proud to say that – from 1 July* – if a new complaint is made against a Lib Dem member, it will be handled under our new complaints procedure, which is consistent, clear and fit for purpose.

Federal Conference voted for this procedure at Brighton in Autumn 2018 and it has since been accepted by each of the state parties in England, Scotland and Wales. It is now time to implement it.

No complaints procedure can work without people to run it. That is why I am proud to say that more than 400 people responded to call for volunteers and we will be ready to hit the ground running. 

From 1 July 2019, complaints should be reported to the Standards Officer at LDHQ who will record the details in the case management system and send it on to the Senior Adjudication Team or “SAT”. The SAT comprises a Senior Adjudicator from each state party and our brilliant Lead Adjudicator, Fred Mackintosh.  The four members of the SAT have many years’ experience in the party and a background in making decisions and dealing with complex problems.

When a case is first raised Fred will randomly assign it to one of at least forty trained and impartial Adjudicators, who will assign any case which is more than frivolous to one of either the formal or informal routes.  At the same time the SAT will decide whether the member complained about should be suspended from membership whilst the complaint is resolved.

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Can you help us make our new disciplinary process a big success?

Have you watched in horror as one organisation after another has got itself into hot water when an owner, a member or an employee has behaved in an appalling way?

The impact of the #MeToo Movement has really highlighted the need for every organisation to get this kind of issue right. We are proud to say that the Lib Dems will be rolling out our new and upgraded disciplinary process in 2019. In order to become an effective, inclusive and diverse organisation this is absolutely vital.

Whilst Brexit is grabbing all the headlines, we are going to need help from members to make this Lib Dem project a big success.

Lord Macdonald started the project with an excellent review and set of recommendations for the new Disciplinary Process. It was then adopted by the Federal Party at the Brighton Conference last September. The English Party has agreed to implement the new process and the Scots and Welsh Parties will look at doing the same at their Spring Conferences early in 2019.

So that means we need volunteers across all three State Parties to get involved and make this a reality. Experience you have from outside the Party may mean you are just the person we want! It might mean you could help us by getting involved as an investigator, or by sitting on a disciplinary panel. Please look out for an email coming to all members in the New Year. It will have links to more information and details on how to apply. In the meantime please click on this link and go to https://www.libdems.org.uk/macdonald-implementation-signup

We are really keen to hear from people not otherwise involved in the Parties’ structures. Investigators and the people on the panel may stand as candidates for the Party or hold office at a Local Party level, but can’t be on other committees.

If you think you could be one of the independent people we need to run a fair and equitable internal disciplinary system, please get in touch today!

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Conference motion: Reforming our party’s disciplinary processes

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There is now a superb summary of all the conference motions on the Liberal Democrat website. This allows you to see, at a glance, the final passed motions, incorporating any passed amendments.

One really important motion was that on the party disciplinary process.

This process was initiated by a motion at 2016 conference to review the party’s disciplinary processes. There have been reviews conducted by Helena Morrissey, Ken MacDonald and Isabelle Parasram. The review was delayed by the 2017 general election. The process was debated at the 2018 Spring Conference, where it was referred back for further work.

The Federal Board has appointed a steering group on Sexual Impropriety Complaints, as recommended by Isabelle Parasram.

The motion at the Brighton conference seeks to set up an independent disciplinary mechanism with trained adjudicators and investigators. There will be a strict logging process for complaints, with time limits for resolution.

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Anonymised incident reporting – a way forward for our disciplinary processes

Last Spring, I spoke against our party’s disciplinary motion. “Our party aims to be agents of change and we do so by producing progressive policy’, I nervously spluttered, my first ever time speaking in that bright-lit yet mustardy stage-space. So it is a natural progression then, that this Autumn conference I have submitted my first ever amendment. Heart palpitations aside, I am hoping to positively reform the Party’s disciplinary procedures, so that we can take an innovative and user-led approach to tackling the scourge of sexual harassment and assault.

My proposed system, Anonymised Incident Reporting (AIR) maximizes complainant control when reporting or logging an offence, offering victims a variety of ways to anonymously detail what has happened to them or what they have been witness to. 

To summarise, AIR allows survivors of sexual assault to securely create encrypted, time-stamped records of their assault, and to only formally hand their report to the party as a full complaint when they’re ready to take action. It encrypts all information on both the complainant and assailant, and offers victims multiple options in how they handle their report and whether to turn it into a formal complaint. 

Callisto describes itself as “a non profit organisation that develops tech to combat sexual assault and harassment.”

A year after deciding to report my assault, I ended up finding the process of reporting to be more traumatic than the event itself. Feeling not believed by the people who I thought were there to project me was incredibly destabilizing.

said its creator Jessica Ladd.

An AIR system would allow the party to offer some initial support and advice to anonymous victims both about how they move forward with their report and what other support they can seek.

I, along with others, have developed these ideas along similar lines to the Callisto system used on US college campuses – the technology is now available and using encryption we can give more and better options to survivors. This amendment is nonetheless intentionally open-ended about some of the precise details of the system, in order that we can move towards an AIR system that is well researched and workable for all those concerned. It therefore offers the party scope to see what they are able to adopt, whilst pushing for a radical new approach that puts victims’ agency and their choices at the heart of our disciplinary procedures.

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Proposed new party disciplinary procedures

I love working with a party that is so committed to giving everyone in society a voice. At the moment, though, our disciplinary process doesn’t live up to those values. Far too often it lets down those making complaints, those complained about – and the whole party. That’s why I’m moving business motion F11: Reforming our Party’s Disciplinary Processes at federal conference in September, a motion I hope you will support.

This reform has been a long time coming: for many years now, experts (yes, we Lib Dems still think there is value in experts!) have been looking at our systems …

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Isabelle Parasram’s report into sexual impropriety complaints handling published

Last year, the Federal Board asked barrister Isabelle Parasram to produce a report on how companies involving sexual sexual impropriety in the party should be handled. Should the party inform the Police? What about anonymity of complainants?

This happened because concern had been expressed about how some such complaints had been handled.

The report has now been published. In a post on the members’ section of the party website, Isabelle Parasram said:

As the Head of Greycoat Law (a barristers’ chambers) I have over two decades of legal and policy experience covering the various strands of law impacting this subject.  I am also a Party member, holding roles within the Party as Vice Chair of Liberal Democrat Women, Vice Chair of the London Region, Regional Spokesperson on Brexit, Prospective Parlimentary Candidate and other similar positions.  I understand that these were some of the reasons why I was approached.

My investigation and eventual Report addressed the following key areas (amongst many others that arose out of what I discovered during the course of my investigation):

  1. support in the process for complainants;
  2. anonymity for complainants;
  3. reporting serious crimes to the police;
  4. suspension of members following serious allegations and
  1. how the Party can support members appropriately who are accused of serious allegations.

It is important to note that my focus was entirely on the applicable processes and were not and were never intended to be an additional investigation into the allegations themselves.

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