CLEAR AND TRANSPARENT COMPLIANCE PROCEDURES FOR DEALING WITH ALLEGATIONS

One thing has been clear from the testimony and documentary evidence to my Inquiry. As with other major British political parties, there is a lack of clarity and confidence in current disciplinary procedures from all sides of the Party, including on the part of those who have complained and been complained against

Complaints Procedures

Many of those submitting evidence to my Inquiry have spoken of the lack of any readily available complaints procedure. Would-be complainants are thus often unclear how any complaint is to be made to the Party structures and how it will be dealt with. This is a matter that needs addressing in the interests of transparency and certainty and to promote and protect the reputation of the Party.

It is also important that the procedures explain that those in respect of whom allegations have been made are clearly informed of the allegation(s) made against them, their factual basis and the identity of the complainant – unless there are good reasons not to do so (e.g. to protect the identity of the complainant).

It should also be possible (in the interests of proportionality) for some concerns to be addressed informally without the need (at least initially) to set in train a formal investigation. Some members may e.g. have used inappropriate language in complete ignorance of its potential harm. An informal discussion may create an opportunity for resolution and learning in such circumstances. Particularly where a swift and informal resolution has not been possible, it is important that the procedures lay down clear time-lines within which a complaint will usually be dealt with.

Whilst there are understandably competing pressures on staff involved in the different stages of a disciplinary matter, would-be complainants, complainants and those against whom complaints are made should have the requisite degree of certainty in this respect. Some of these pressures may be alleviated by the establishment of a dedicated complaints handling officer (or team). Disagreeing well within a democratic political party means not using abusive language in debate but it also entails avoiding the risk or perception of abuse of power in matters of internal discipline. – I recommend the drawing up, and adoption of, a readily accessible complaints procedure explaining with sufficiently clarity how and to whom complaints are to be made.

This procedure should also outline, in the interests of potential complainants and those subject to complaints, the information that is to be set out in a complaint, the right, absent good reason, of the person who is complained of to be notified of the details of the complaint and the identity of the complainant, the processes which may be triggered including processes for exploring an informal resolution of the complaint where appropriate and the length of time that each stage of the process will usually take. Complainants Some care should also be taken to identify and record the identity of complainants.

This would allow and facilitate genuine sensitive communication and “aftercare” in relation e.g. to a Labour Party member who has been targeted or upset unpleasantly by a fellow member. However, it would also create an important distinction between such a complainant and a hostile journalist or political rival 17 conducting a trawling exercise or fishing expedition in relation to a particular person or group of people within the Labour Party. I am not going so far to say that a politically motivated complaint should always be disregarded, just that motivation may have relevance, as will context.

I also recognise that the Party’s elected structures (Leader, the NEC etc.) should be able to raise concerns of their own volition about a member in danger of bringing the Party into disrepute. However, if an investigation arises via this route, that should be also clearly recorded. Further, subjects of complaint should normally be informed both of its substance and author at the earliest opportunity unless there is a clear and pressing reason for protecting the identity of a complainant.

Complainants

Some care should also be taken to identify and record the identity of complainants.

This would allow and facilitate genuine sensitive communication and "aftercare" in relation e.g. to a Labour Party member who has been targeted or upset unpleasantly by a fellow member. However, it would also create an important distinction between such a complainant and a hostile journalist or political rival 17 conducting a trawling exercise or fishing expedition in relation to a particular person or group of people within the Labour Party. 

I am not going so far to say that a politically motivated complaint should always be disregarded, just that motivation may have relevance, as will context. I also recognise that the Party's elected structures (Leader, the NEC etc.) should be able to raise concerns of their own volition about a member in danger of bringing the Party into disrepute. However, if an investigation arises via this route, that should be also clearly recorded. Further, subjects of complaint should normally be informed both of its substance and author at the earliest opportunity unless there is a clear and pressing reason for protecting the identity of a complainant.

                       
 
                  Natural Justice Page     

              THE SHAMI CHAKRABARTI INQUIRY


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