The Complaints Path

As per the 2019 Disciplinary Process

Useful information

Roles and terms used in the complaints process (1)

  1. Original Adjudicator

A Complaints Panel makes decisions about Complaints and whether sanctions should be imposed. Each Panel is made up three adjudicators.

Adjudicators are trained to assess how serious a Complaint is and whether the Party’s reputation may be damaged by a member’s actions.

Some Adjudicators receive specialist training to handle cases relating to allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct, bullying, harassment or abuse of power.

A person who is appealing against a decision made by a Complaints Panel is called an Appellant.

An Appellant be either the Complainant or the Respondent in the original Complaint.

  1. Bringing the Party into Disrepute


The Party’s reputation may be considered to be damaged:

  • by something a person does or by something a person doesn’t do (this is called an omission).

  • if a person breaches the Party’s Constitution, its policies or the Members' Code of Conduct (See Article 3 of the Federal Constitution here).


Behaviour will be considered on the basis of how a reasonable person might interpret the behaviour and its consequence.


  1. Chief Executive


This means the Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Party.

  1. The Complainant


The Complainant is the person or group (party) making the complaint.

  1. Complaint


A Complaint is an allegation by a Complainant about the behaviour or actions of a member of the Party. This may include criminal behaviour. We will let Complainants know when Complaints need to be referred to the police.

  1. Complaints Panel


A panel of three Adjudicators appointed to consider each Complaint.

  1. Federal Appeals Panel

The Federal Appeals Panel is described in Article 22 of the Constitution.

  1. Independent Person


An Independent Person is a Party member who:

  • is appointed to give independent advice and are trained in mediation,

  • isn’t personally connected to a person who makes, or is subject to, a Complaint, and

  • isn’t connected to an event connected to a Complaint.


  1. Investigator


Investigators are trained to investigate serious matters for the Complaints Panel. They must investigate without giving favour to any side.

  1. Lead and Senior Adjudicators


The Lead Adjudicator:

  • is responsible for making sure the complaint procedure runs smoothly and reporting back to Conference; and

  • is supported by the Senior Adjudicators Team.


The Senior Adjudicator’ Team:

  • is made up of a Lead Adjudicator and three Senior Adjudicators; and

  • generally make decisions by majority vote. If a majority can’t be achieved, the Lead Adjudicator has the deciding vote.


  1. Party Mentor (or Process Mentor)


A Party Mentor:

  • is selected by the Party,

  • provides support to a person who is the subject of a complaint (the Respondent) through the complaints process; and

  • is trained to understand the complaints procedure and help respondents through the process.


  1. Pastoral Care


The People Team at Lib Dem HQ will be able to provide pastoral care by way of support over the phone or by directing individuals to appropriate services.

  1. Respondent


The Respondent is the Party member about whom a Complaint has been made.

  1. Standards Officer


The Standards Officer is the member of staff responsible for the administration of the complaint procedure.

The Complaints Path

First Steps

Standards Office receives the complaint (4.1)

  • When a Complaint is received, the Standards Officer will check the complaint can be accepted. Complaints can only be made against one person at a time and that person must be an active party member.

  • The Standards Officer will then refer the Complaint to the Lead Adjudicator and Senior Adjudicator to review the complaint and evidence.

  • The Standards Office will email the Respondent to let them know a complaint has been raised against them, and provide them with the evidence that has been submitted.

  • The Lead Adjudicator or Senior Adjudicator may refer a Complaint to the Senior Adjudicators’ Team to make a decision about whether the Respondent’s membership should be suspended.

  • They may also decide the complaint cannot be accepted, should be dismissed or appoint an Original Adjudicator to consider the case further.

Suspension is considered (4.2)

  • The Senior Adjudicators' Team can decide to suspend the Respondent’s Party membership. The Complaints Panel can also decide to suspend the Respondent.

  • A suspension by the Senior Adjudicators' Team takes effect immediately.

  • The suspension can be reviewed after any hearing.

  • The suspension will be lifted when the complaints procedure is finished unless the panel make a different decision.

The Original Adjudicator considers the complaint (4.3)

The Standards Officer will pass Complaints to the Lead Adjudicator. They need to do that in three working days. The Lead Adjudicator will either accept or reject the complaint. If the complaint is accepted, they will appoint an Original Adjudicator.

The Original Adjudicator decides what action to take:

  • 4.3.1. Dismissal

The Complaint is dismissed when the Adjudicator doesn’t believe the matter is a risk to the party’s reputation, or it is not serious enough to be referred to a Complaints Panel.

  • 4.3.2. Referral to Informal Resolution

The Adjudicator may refer a Complaint for Informal Resolution, even if proved, if there is not much risk that the issue could hurt the Party’s reputation.

  • 4.3.3. Referral to Investigator

The Adjudicator will refer a Complaint to an Investigator if it is likely that the issue is serious enough to hurt the Party’s reputation.

  • 4.3.4. Expedited Complaints Procedure

If there is enough evidence to make a decision, the Adjudicator will refer a Complaint to the Senior Adjudicators' Team and recommend the expedited complaints procedure path.

A 4.3 decision cannot be appealed.

You can read more about each path below.

The Complaints path

Three Possible routes


Informal Resolution (5.1)

If an Adjudicator refers a Complaint for Informal Resolution, they will appoint an Independent Person. These are the next steps:

  • 5.1.1. Interviews

The Independent Person will try to interview both parties and any witnesses within two weeks. The interviews may be in person, by video call or by phone call. The Independent Person will decide how serious the matter is and decide the best outcome for all parties.

  • 5.1.2. Meetings

After the interviews and within two weeks, the Independent Person may arrange a meeting to bring the the parties together.

Before this meeting, the Independent Person will explain to each person what the other member hopes to achieve at the meeting.

Everyone at the meeting will be given written guidance on the behaviour expected of them during the meeting.

  • 5.1.3. Resolution

If the parties can’t come to an agreement at the meeting, or if the Independent Person decides it isn’t appropriate to hold a joint meeting, the Independent Person will try to reach an outcome.

The outcome should be reached within two months of the Complaint being referred for Informal Resolution.

  • 5.1.4. Extensions

If resolution isn’t achieved in two months, and if the Independent Person still thinks the matter is suitable for Informal Resolution, they will ask both parties if they agree to an extension of time (of no longer than another two months).

  • 5.1.5. Referral

If the Complainant or Respondent don’t agree to an extension of time an Adjudicator will be appointed.

The Adjudicator will decide if the Complaint should go to a Complaints Panel hearing or if the Complaint should be dismissed.

If the Adjudicator decides to dismiss the Complaint, the Complainant may appeal to a second Adjudicator. The decision of a second Adjudicator is final.

If the Adjudicator refers the Complaint to a Complaints Panel, the Respondent can appeal to a second Adjudicator. The decision of a second Adjudicator is final.

The Independent Person may decide that the Complaint can’t be sorted out by Informal Resolution. In that case the complaints path below is followed.

  • 5.1.6. Resolution

When all parties agree to the outcome of a process (for example, a verbal apology is given), the Independent Person will inform both parties and the Standards Officer in writing of the outcome and the matter is now closed.

Standard Formal Process - with investigation (5.2)

  • 5.2.1. Investigation

The Adjudicator may decide to have the Complaint investigated. The Investigator will:

  1. gather evidence in a way which does not take sides,

  2. prepare a report for the Complaints Panel; and

  3. interview the Complainants and Respondents and any witnesses.


  • 5.2.2. Investigator's Report

The Investigator should finish their report in 21 days.

In exceptional circumstances, the Investigator may request more time to complete their report.

The maximum amount of time they will get is another 21 days.

The report will recommend an outcome that the Adjudicator will consider. The recommendation will be one of the following actions:

  • 5.2.2.1. Dismissal

To dismiss the Complaint.

  • 5.2.2.2. Referral to Informal Resolution

To refer the Complaint for Informal Resolution.

  • 5.2.2.3. Progress to Panel Hearing

To refer the matter to a Complaints Panel hearing.

  • 5.2.2.4. Appeals

After getting the Investigator's report, the Adjudicator has three days to decide what action should be taken.

Complainants and Respondents can appeal against any decision within three days of being notified about the decision.

If this happens the Lead Adjudicator will appoint a second Adjudicator to review the Investigator's report. The decision of the second Adjudicator is final.

  • 5.2.3. Panel Hearing

          • 5.2.3.1. Panel convened

If the Adjudicators decide that a Complaints Panel hearing should be held, it will be held between 14 to 21 days from when they were told the final decision.

A Complaints Panel of three randomly selected Adjudicators will consider the complaint.

Other Party members cannot interfere in the work of the Complaints Panel.

The Complaints Panel will see the final Investigator's report without edit.

  • 5.2.3.2. Communication

When the Complaints Panel hearing has been set up, the Standards Officer will write to everybody concerned and let them know the date of the hearing.

The Complainants, Respondents and key witnesses will get a copy of the Investigator's report.

Confidential information, which might identify witnesses, will be removed.

  • 5.2.3.3. Attendance

Complainants and Respondents may attend the hearing in person or be represented by another Party member. If they attend in person, they can bring a support person with them.

  • 5.2.3.4. Postponement

In exceptional circumstances the Complaints Panel may postpone a Complaints Panel hearing.

  • 5.2.3.5. Evidence

The Investigator will present their report at the Complaints Panel hearing.

Witnesses might be asked to give evidence and asked questions by the Complaints Panel.

Complainants and Respondents or their representatives:

  • may be asked questions by the Complaints Panel,

  • can respond (have a right of reply) after all the evidence has been presented; and

  • can’t question witnesses or the other party to the Complaint.


New evidence shouldn’t be presented at the Complaints Panel hearing unless the Complaints Panel has agreed.

The Complaints Panel hearing will be recorded.

  • 5.2.3.6. Panel decision

The Complaints Panel may decide:

  • to dismiss the Complaint; or

  • to uphold the Complaint.


If they agree to uphold the complaint, this means they agree there is a problem to be addressed and they will decide the best way to address that problem.

The Complaints Panel will write to the Standards Officer within seven days to tell them what they decided.

The Standards Officer will send a copy of this letter to the Complainants and the Respondents.

Expedited Procedure - no investigation (5.3)

The quickest complaints procedure is called the Expedited Complaints Process. This quicker process is used where there is clear evidence to show the complaint happened as the Complainant has said.

If the Senior Adjudicators' Team decide there is enough evidence, a Complaints Panel hearing shall be held as soon as possible, and always within 21 days.

The Senior Adjudicators' Team and Standards Officer will do everything possible to complete an Expedited Complaints Procedure in four weeks.

Examples of sufficient evidence are:

  • screenshots or copies of publicly posted messages which breach the Constitution or Members' Code of Conduct,

  • evidence of criminal convictions, or

  • evidence that the Respondent has applied to stand against a Party candidate.


Other important points

Appealing a Final Decision (6)

6.1. How to appeal a decision?

6.1.1.Complainants and Respondents can appeal against the Complaints Panel's decision within 14 days of receiving a copy of the decision.

The appeal form can be found online at www.libdems.org.uk/fap_forms. Please use Form 1A.

6.1.2. Reasons for Appeal

Appeals may be made if:

  • There was a serious failure of process.

  • The Complaints Panel decision did not match the evidence.

  • Relevant new evidence becomes available.

  • The sanction decided by the Complaints Panel was very excessive or very easy when compared with the findings.


Anonymity

  • To protect their privacy, Complainants, Respondents and witnesses may ask for their details to be made anonymous (anonymised). This means removing names and other information that could lead to a person being identified.

  • The decision to anonymise must be balanced with the need to properly investigate the Complaint.

  • Sometimes it isn’t possible to investigate a Complaint without providing personal details about the Complainants to the Respondents.

  • In this situation, if the Complainants have asked for anonymity, the Investigator will:

        • let the Complainants know the details that need to be shared with the Respondents

        • let the Complainants decide whether they want to continue the Complaint.


  • If the Complainant does not want their personal details (name) shared, it may not be possible for the investigation and complaints procedure to continue.

  • Any respondent to a complaint is allowed to know the case made against them, that includes the details of the complaint, evidence and witness statements.

  • If complainants and witnesses wish to remain anonymous, when they are writing a statement they must consider that it will be read by the respondent.

  • Before a Complaints Panel hearing, the Senior Adjudicators Team will look closely to see which witness details can remain anonymous.

  • The Senior Adjudicators' Team must balance the Complainants' or witnesses' right to privacy with the Respondent's right to have the information they need to best prepare to defend themselves.

  • If personal or identifying information is shared, it still must be kept confidential.

  • Respondents, Complaints and Witnesses are expected to respect the privacy of all people involved in the Complaint.

  • Breaching a person’s confidentiality may be treated as a disciplinary matter by the Party.

  • Serious sanctions will be imposed if personal information is used to harass, bully or intimidate Respondents, Complainants or witnesses.

  • The Party will report any potentially criminal harassment, bullying or intimidation to the police.

Confidentiality

  • Details about the Complaint and the procedure must be kept confidential during the Complaints Procedure.

  • This is to allow the process to move forward properly and to protect everyone involved from emotional distress and reputational damage.

  • Information should only be shared with people who need that information. Staff who may need information include:

      • the Chief Executive, Standards Officer, Head of Human Resources and Compliance, any Adjudicators and the Investigator,

      • Independent Person directly involved in administering the Complaint, and members of the Federal Appeals Panel; and

      • the Complainants, the Respondents and witnesses.

  • In exceptional circumstances, the Party may share information about Complaints more widely. For example, the Party may need to share some information to meet its legal obligations, or feel sharing information is necessary to protect the party or public. Normally this won't be necessary.

  • After a complaint is concluded, the Party will inform relevant people and Party bodies as necessary.

  • Complainants, Respondents and witnesses must not share personal information about other people involved in the Complaint while any complaints procedure is going on. This is a breach of data protection.

  • Complainants or Respondents will understandably want to seek advice from close family or friends. Please restrict these discussions to a very small number of people - just one or two at most. These people must agree not to disclose anything that you say to them to anyone else at all.

  • If an individual breaches confidentiality while a complaints process is going on, they may be subject to a separate complaint or sanction.

Legal Representation

  • The Party's complaints process is not a legal process.

  • The Party will communicate directly with anyone going through the complaints process until the process has finished.

  • Members can get advice from a legal professional at any stage.

  • Members may choose a representative who has legal training, to support them at any Complaints Panel or Federal Appeals Panel hearing.

Support

All members have access to HealthAssured, a support line specifically for Lib Dem Members. Calls are answered by experienced in-house counsellors, legal and financial specialists: 0800 028 0199.


Complainant

10.1.1. Pastoral Care

The People Team at HQ can provide pastoral support to Complainants.

10.1.2. Panel hearings

Additional support may be provided to Complainants who are attending a hearing about very serious or sensitive matters.

Examples of serious or sensitive matters include allegationsThank of inappropriate sexual conduct, bullying, harassment or abuse of power.

The additional support to Complainants includes:

  • being able to give evidence remotely (by video for example),

  • having the Pastoral Care Officer with them at a panel hearing; and

  • having a second person of their choosing (like a family member, friend or other party member) with them.


Respondent

10.2.1. Party Mentor (commonly known as a Process Mentor)

The role of a Mentor is to help someone to understand the complaints procedure, particularly during times of stress, but not to advocate for them.

10.2.2. Panel Hearings

Respondents can ask their Party Mentor to be with them at a panel hearing. They may also have a second support person of their choosing (like a family member, friend or other party member) with them at the hearing.

Safeguarding

If there concerns about an individual’s safety at a hearing:

  • They can choose to give evidence remotely (for example by video),

  • The Standards Office or People Team will put in place any other measures that will make the hearing safe.

Sanctions

Sanctions may be imposed if a panel decides to uphold a complaint. Possible sanctions could be:


  • having membership taken away

  • being expelled from the State Party

  • being required to do training

  • having membership cancelled for a period of time (suspended), for example, while the person does required training

  • being banned from standing for office as a Liberal Democrat. This may be permanent or for a period of time

  • being banned from holding office in the Party permanently, for a fixed period or until after a specific event (like training) has occurred

  • being removed from the approved list of candidates. This may be permanent or for a period of time

  • being required to give an apology.


Important

This site has been prepared based on the 2019 Disciplinary procedure and should be used as guidance to understanding the process only.


Numbering in italics on this site relates directly to this procedure.

Contact us

Logging a complaint

To lodge a complaint, please click here or go to libdems.org.uk/complaints


To log an appeal following the conclusion of a complaint, please go to libdems.org.uk/fap_forms


Getting in touch

For general enquiries about logging a complaint or the complaints process, please email: standardsofficer@libdems.org.uk


For feedback on the complaints process, please email: dsg@libdems.org.uk (do not include details of any individuals or complaints).

Published and promoted by Mike Dixon on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE.

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