A letter from a CLP Secretary:
I am writing to you as Chair of the Disputes Panel to raise serious concerns about the treatment of many members and local elected party officers suspended by the party in recent months.
The party has accepted in full the findings and recommendations of both the 2016 Chakrabarti report and the 2020 EHRC investigation into antisemitism. Yet failures of the complaints process that the party has acknowledged for at least 5 years remain unaddressed. On pages 62-3 of the EHRC report it states:Lack of clear and fair process for respondentsThe Chakrabarti report noted the importance of making sure 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’.15In 2017, the NEC Organisational Committee16 identified principles for disciplinary processes. This included that anyone accused of a disciplinary breach should be made aware of the nature of that breach in a ‘timely fashion’, and that NEC guidance notes should be drafted to ‘advise any persons under investigation of their rights and responsibilities’.However, we found no evidence of a clear policy for respondents setting out their rights, and no clear decision-making process or guidance on when to provide information to respondents about complaints.Our analysis of the complaint sample showed that:
• Some letters of administrative suspension failed to identify the underlying allegations, or did so in a vague manner.• The system for explaining allegations to respondents and giving them an opportunity to respond was not always effective.• Some complaint files did not hold the identity of the complainant
.• Respondents were not told the identity of the complainant even when there was no obvious reason to withhold their identity.
• Respondents were not generally given an expected timeline for the investigation
It has been over a month since I was suspended yet I have only been told what rule I am alleged to have breached. I do not know what I am accused of nor what evidence there is against me that was deemed sufficient to merit an administrative suspension.
We have a right to know who took the decision to suspend us and why as well as how the decision was made. These are all improvements to the transparency of the complaints process that could be implemented at any time. Are these decisions being taken consistently across all CLPs and regions?
In my CLP there are 4 Executive Committee officers who remain active in the party despite having long standing complaints of anti-black racism, islamophobia, misogyny, bullying and harassment. Well over 20 complaints made by members, up to a year ago, that have seen no actions taken and only the most rudimentary of updates provided despite persistent chasing.
The party claims that there is a fast track process for complaints with documentary evidence but that is not borne out by the experiences of members as both complainants and respondents. We have also not been provided with any timeline for resolution in this process. Some members have been suspended for years which is completely unacceptable. None of us have received justification for why our suspension is necessary during the investigation. This is not a process that engenders trust in the party and its commitment to justice. If the party recognises massive failings that have impacted people with all protected characteristics and both complainants and respondents, why proceed with that flawed process without making changes?
I submitted a subject access request upon being placed under administrative suspension. This has been rejected as manifestly unfounded using a boilerplate response sent to seemingly all members who have done similar. It paints us as malicious actors and contravenes the ICO guidance, which states the organisation must provide a reason for taking this decision. No reason has been given. SARs should also be dealt with on a case by case basis, not by taking the same decision for all suspended members regardless of when their request was made and particular circumstances.
Since being suspended I have been locked out of all party systems and removed from our local Facebook forum by other EC officers who have revealed we were suspended in the process. Planned local meetings and campaigns have been disrupted. I am not allowed to speak about my suspension but rumours are being circulated in the CLP.
My reputation has been damaged and I am unable to defend myself.
This has understandably had a significant effect on my mental health, something for which a signpost to the Samaritans on being informed of my suspension isn’t sufficient to address.
I was Secretary for two years before my suspension, served the party loyally and led the 2019 GE effort in Hendon. Irrespective of whether party officials agree or disagree with my politics, this is not the correct way to treat any member.