Autumn Conference 2023

Motion #07

Report from Disciplinary Committee

Motion passed

i Disciplinary Committee

Committee Membership

The composition of the Disciplinary Committee has substantially changed over the past 12 months, and managing the skills and membership of the Committee has been a significant issue during this time. At Autumn Conference 2022, Standing Orders for Party Discipline was amended to double the size of the Committee, with each constituency (Wales + Regions + Conference) electing two members rather than one. This measure was intended to provide additional people power to help work through the backlog of complaints, although it was never intended to be the one and only solution required to this end. While several members of the Committee have since resigned, this Committee is now larger than it has ever been, with currently 14 members out of a maximum of 22.

The influx of new members poses its own challenges, however. We have many eager and talented new members, but we are short of experienced members who can share their wisdom to guide newer members through hearings and investigations. The average length of service among the 14 members of the Committee is under 12 months. The Committee is investing time in preparing guidance and support documents so that our newer members can feel more prepared for the often-complex work required on this Committee and have a better understanding, as well as improving consistency in procedures. The Committee will also closely work with newer members to provide individual support where needed.

Standing Orders for Party Discipline requires that those involved with the Complaints process undergo certain types of training. With many new Committee members, it is important that this training be provided promptly, so that new members can commence their duties without delay. Unfortunately, the SOPD-mandated training was not provided to Committee members by the Party within three months of the initial and subsequent requests by new members. Committee member resignations left the Committee without sufficient trained members to handle complaints in compliance with Standing Orders for Party Discipline, so the Committee paused all action until the training had been provided by the Party and completed by Committee members. This training has now been made available and Committee members are proceeding through the required training.

In summer 2022, Vivien Lichtenstein reached the end of her year-long term as elected Committee Chair, and left the Committee at the end of her membership term in October 2022. As Chair, Vivien engaged extensively with the Party in improving the complaints system, from amending Standing Orders for Party Discipline to successfully lobbying for additional resourcing, and we thank her immensely for her significant efforts and achievements in positive reform. Subsequently, Andreas Christodoulou was elected as Chair of the Committee and Scott Robinson was elected as Deputy Chair. In June 2023, Andreas Christodoulou announced his resignation as Chair. We are exceedingly grateful for the contributions he has made to the Committee, and the complaints management system he set up has streamlined the complaints process substantially. In July 2023, Scott Robinson was elected as Chair, and Rachel Collinson and Robin Brabham were elected as Deputy Chairs (job share). In addition, we give our thanks to previous members who have left the Committee in the past year: Alan, Helen, Linda, Maciej and Thom. We are also grateful for the ongoing support we receive from Party staff members, including Rositta Priestley, Sarah Santos and Mary Clegg.

Ongoing Challenges in the Complaints System

One of the most significant challenges facing the Committee is the extent of litigation in the complaints process. This is a relatively new issue and Standing Orders for Party Discipline is not written with litigation in mind, seeking to remedy disagreements through mediation or the disciplinary process if all else fails, and is not a legal process in itself. All members sign up to abide by the Constitution and Code of Conduct, and by consequence the complaints system too if it is felt that these governing documents have been breached. The Committee itself does not directly deal with legal counsel, with this being handled by members of Party staff instead. Unfortunately, the significant amount of resources required to handle legal correspondence detracts from the staff support that can be provided to this Committee on other aspects of the complaints system. This report casts no judgement on the validity or outcomes of any litigation involving the Party, but seeks to remind members that litigation heavily consumes resources that cannot then be used elsewhere, including to support this Committee and the wider complaints process. Members are encouraged to make use of local and regional dispute resolution or disciplinary processes or the Alternative Disputes Resolution Committee where possible, and follow the disciplinary process where this is not possible.

A further challenge is the administration of the complains system, and it is a significant task; with the need to maintain security and confidentiality while permitting Committee members to conduct investigations and hearings as needed. The current systems involve many manual tasks which are inherently prone to errors with potentially serious consequences, such as redaction or sending complaints material to parties ahead of hearings. While some of these tasks are handled by Party staff, others fall upon the Committee; therefore with a substantial backlog of complaints, there are not only a substantial amount of investigations and hearings to conduct, but also a substantial volume of administration and data management tasks. The current systems available to the Committee are not all designed specifically to manage complaints and are holding back the Committee from performing its duties. We will do our best to make use of the limited systems we have, but the Party must be mindful that the complaints process requires future investment as well as day-to-day support. Under-investment in this crucial arm of the Party costs more money than it saves. The Committee has engaged with other Party bodies to make our case for this investment and will continue to do so.

Next steps

Despite these challenges, the Committee has completed numerous investigations and hearings, as set out in the figures provided by Sarah Santos. We will continue to work through the backlog of complaints to the best of our ability and capacity, while building the skills and confidence of Committee members. We will continue to develop the complaints process and address the concerns around accessibility, timeliness, and fairness. We encourage Party members to stand for election to the Committee to provide their abilities and expertise to the complaints system and improve our Party overall.

ii. Statistical overview

The Standing Orders for Party Discipline require the Complaints Manager to report all decisions of censure, suspension and expulsion, taken by the Disciplinary Committee, to Conference.

The Disciplinary Committee has met 9 times since July 2022.

DC business meetings dates:

  • 30 July 2022
  • 24 September 2022
  • 29 October 2022
  • 26 November 2022
  • 28 January 2022
  • 25 February 2022
  • 25 March 2023
  • 27 May 2023
  • 24 June 2023

In the period 1st July 2022 to 30th June 2023, the Disciplinary Committee heard 23 cases. Of these:

  • 4 complaints were not upheld and were dismissed
  • 2 complaint was upheld but was discharged with no sanction
  • 9 complaints received sanctions of some kind*
  • 5 complaints resulted in censure
  • 7 complaints resulted in conditions being placed on the respondent’s participation in GPEW activities (e.g. removal from office, disqualification from standing for internal or external election)
  • 1 complaint resulted in disciplinary suspensions of membership
  • 8 complaints resulted in an expulsion

*more than one sanction may have been applied, so the numbers here add to up to more than total cases heard

The Complaints Manager is also required to report all Appeal decisions to Conference.

The Green Party Regional Council Appeals Sub Committee has considered 7 appeals between 01 July 2022 – 30 June 2023:

  • 31st August 2022: Appeal not upheld
  • 15th September 2022: Appeal not upheld
  • 11th November 2022: (Double appeal) - one appeal upheld, one appeal not upheld
  • 28th November 2022: Appeal upheld
  • 9th February 2023: Appeal not upheld
  • 10th February 2023: Appeal not upheld
  • 10th February 2023: Appeal not upheld
  • 24th March 2023: Appeal upheld

I wish to record my thanks to all involved in the disciplinary and disputes process, including those working in the Referral Group, at a regional level and in appeals, and to the on-going work of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee. I particularly wish to recognise the incredible hard work of current and former members of the Disciplinary Committee.

Last updated on 2023-10-21 at 11:41