On this page you will find our response to a reported sexual assault and updates on the process we put in place to investigate our actions on this matter.
The working group we set up to investigate reported on 4.4.18, Please click here for a PDF copy. Our National Committee's statement on the Working Group report is at the top of this page.
Our annual conference on 24-25 November 2018 discussed the recommendations of the working group which looked at our responses to this report and case. We voted on a new code of conduct, complaints procedure and safeguarding policy and this can be found here. Further updates on follow up work can be found at the bottom of this page.
Statement from the National Committee on the Working Group report
The National Committee of the AWL welcomes the report produced by the Working Group, and thanks its members, and the external individuals they consulted and who contributed to the production of the report, for their work on it.
This report has concluded that the AWL lacked an adequate understanding of issues and procedures around safeguarding, and were guilty of serious collective and individual failures of duty of care, on the part of some members, including, in particular, some members of our elected committees.
We place on record our regret at our collective and individual failings, at the time of the alleged incident and since, as well as our apologies to the complainant for our failure to have in place the adequate safeguarding and complaint procedures we now commit to establish.
We endorse the recommendations of the report and will work to ensure that they are implemented, in the first place by ensuring a full discussion about them throughout the organisation.
Agreed on 7-4-18
Archive of responses, reports and updates.
Initial response from Workers' Liberty
An ex-member of the AWL has posted an online anonymous report alleging sexual assault on him by another ex-member of the AWL in 2005. We take these issues very seriously. We conducted an immediate review of these events so we could give a prompt response, as part of holding ourselves accountable.
Although the writer describes the other ex-member as “prominent”, in fact, he never held any position in the AWL; he has not been a member since 2008. As the writer indicates, shortly after the incident, he spoke to a few individuals in the AWL about it. At that time, he did not describe the encounter as an assault, nor propose a complaint. The individuals kept those conversations in confidence as the writer asked them to. At the time the writer said explicitly he did not want the incident to be officially discussed. The incident has never been made the subject of a complaint to the AWL. None of this account should prejudice anything the writer wishes to now say about what happened.
It is our understanding that, at the time, the individuals to whom the writer disclosed these events felt they were acting not only in accordance with the writer’s wishes but also appropriately. That was a serious mistake. He was a sixteen-year old and the incidents should have been reported to appropriate bodies inside or outside the AWL, as an issue of safety. We recognise the need to find out more about what happened, to reflect on the events and the issues they raise; we will be further reviewing the systems of reporting we put in place in 2014. We are setting up a Working Group independent of our committees for that.
We believe the writer has the right to rethink and to pursue any and all aspects of this historical incident, and we will do everything we can to help. If the writer wishes to go to the police or other appropriate body with allegations we will co-operate fully with any investigation. As we have previously indicated to the writer on a number of occasions, including recently, if he wishes to discuss any aspect of these incidents with ourselves, we are willing.
In his statement the writer raises two matters that are completely separate to the 2005 incidents. He says he was “forced out” of the AWL in 2008, but, in fact, he quit citing political disagreements. He also says he has been made a target of a campaign of false accusations by the AWL. We do not recognise that claim. In the last year or so AWL members have taken action to try to defend ourselves against a slanderous online trolling campaign with real world implications for the welfare and employment of individuals. This has involved gathering information, making informal approaches to individuals, making complaints to an online platform, letter writing and logging incidents with the police. The writer was one of a number of individuals against whom we have sought redress.
11 January 2018. Slightly edited 12-13-15 January for clarity.
You can read the statement online here.
Working Group updates
As mentioned in the statement above we have set up a Working Group of two experienced supporters of Workers' Liberty. They are long-time labour movement activists, who are not connected with any of our committees.
This Working Group will further investigate individual and collective responses made by the AWL from 2005 onwards, while respecting a stated wish by the complainant for the matter not to be taken further, e.g. to the police. The Working Group will look at how the AWL looks after the welfare and safeguarding of young people. It will re-examine the AWL's Code of Conduct (from 2014), its grievance procedures and arrangements for reporting. It will propose appropriate amendments to that Code, particularly in relation to safeguarding issues. The Working Group will look at what guidance and support should be available for members and supporters, and at our events. It will propose training in the implementation of all these systems. It can propose disciplinary action if it sees fit.
The Working Group will seek to involve and draw on the advice of qualified people, from outside the AWL, for “best practice” information. The Working Group will seek scrutiny of its work by suitable labour movement representatives. Findings and proposals will be made public. The Working Group will report by 1 March 2018.
The working group will now be reporting for a 15 March deadline due to the process taking longer than expected.
The working group we set up had the remit: "We recognise the need to find out more about what happened, to reflect on the events and the issues they raise; we will be further reviewing the systems of reporting we put in place in 2014. We are setting up a Working Group independent of our committees for that."
The writer of the blog post also said he had been made a target of a campaign of false accusations by the AWL. We responded: "We do not recognise that claim".
We are asking a further, and separate investigation, also independent of our committees, to investigate the account of a campaign of false accusations, and to examine our response to the Red London Facebook page and online harassment of our members linked to that page. It can communicate with and use the work of the first working group. It will be subject to the same conditions of scrutiny by responsible individuals outside the AWL. It will report later than the first Working Group. We will communicate the timescale in due course.
The working group report is now written and is with external people for comments and criticism. It will be published here by Wednesday 21 March.
The draft of the report was sent to external people for scrutiny last week. We now have firm timescales from them, which will allow the final report to be published on Wednesday 4th April.
We recognise this is later than we originally intended but feel it is very important to ensure that the work of independent advice and scrutiny is completed properly.
Working group report
The Working Group has now completed its report, following independent scrutiny. It is published on 4 April 2018.
You can download the report to read here.
The EC will meet on 6.4.18 and the NC on 7.4.18 and discuss the working groups report. Future updates will be posted here.
The second report as detailed in the update from 26.2.18 is expected to be completed and published on 5.7.18 as previously noted this will be following independent scrutiny.
The second report is now being independently scrutinised. We hope to publish the completed and scrutinised report on this page on 9.7.18.
After a further delay due to the availability for independent scrutiny from someone with expertise in auditing public sector work, the second report has now been published and can be downloaded here and from the bottom of this page.
Follow up from the Working Group report
The following proposals were agreed by the National Committee on 7.5.18. We are now working on implementing these decisions. You can contact us at the email address below with any enquiries.
These are a set of proposals for follow up from the Working Group report, which include but are not limited to the recommendations made by the Working Group in it’s report published on 4-4-18. This is not meant to be exhaustive, nor the final say, on the next steps from the report.
1. Ensure all branches and fractions discuss the report, and if necessary arrange other discussions – for example regional ones or of the womens’ fraction — where necessary. Organise a method of suggestions or points from these discussions to be collated.
2. Appoint and arrange training for a Safeguarding, and deputy, officer.
3. Discuss and decide on role and training of regional/local welfare officers
4. The EC should commission a group of people involving at least one EC member, and one member of the Working Group to carry out the following proposals from the report:
i. Organise an event, as soon as possible and definitely before the next AWL conference, of our members under the age of 18 to have their say on the issues raised in the Working Group report and on the shape of a safeguarding policy, with a selection members who joined the group under the age of 18 and members who have experience of working with people under the age of 18. Organise a recall event within 12 months, and consider ongoing events/networks.
ii. Seek to organise a meeting with political activists under the age of 18 on the left to discuss how the left and labour movement should handle safeguarding. Points i and ii are slightly different to the Working Group′s recommendation due to the relatively few members under the age of 18 in our organisation.
iii. Write a safeguarding policy
iv. Review and rewrite and/or reorganise the relevant parts of the constitution, Code of Conduct, and Procedure for Complaints and Grievances
v. Ensure the revised policies are discussed widely throughout the organisation.
5. The office should reorganise the resources section of the website to make the new policies clear
6. The office should make the production of a new members book, which will include the revised policies, a priority
7 Investigate, discuss, and decide, in consultation with those working on a safeguarding policy, the use of DBS checks for Safeguarding officers and key organisers, and compile a stock of appropriate resources and outside agencies.
8. Integrate into the work of reorganising the division of labour in the office a review of systems for reporting and recording of information to the EC and within the office
9. Seek to establish a channel of communication with the complainant.
New policies will be presented for discussion and voting at the 2018 conference, and for review at the 2019 conference.
Update May 2020
Most, but not all of this programme of work has been implemented. Gaps are: a meeting of political activists under 18 has not been practicable as yet; we attempted to establish a channel of communication (a meeting with a professional mediator) with the complainant at the time of the report's production but these arrangements failed. Developments are: we have appointed a Safeguarding Officer and written new policy; a new members induction pack, which includes revised policy, will be produced in a hard copy printed format in autumn 2020; we maintain a list of comrades with DBS checks; a Safeguarding Training Pack is available to all members via our members' online forum and includes lists of outside agencies.
The Safeguarding Officer reported to the AWL 2020 conference and their report is available on our policies page at the foot of the Safeguarding policy.
How to contact the Working Group or for other enquiries
To contact the working group email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For any other queries relating to this issue which are not submissions to the Working Group email: email@example.com (this contact person is not a member of the Working Group).
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