How Plaid Cymru Works - 26

This is the twenty-sixth tranche of emails from the correspondence between various people in Plaid Cymru and myself, following a complaint about what I had written on the subject of the Ynys Môn by-election last year. For easy reference, I've put together the all the previous correspondence on this page.

From: Jocelyn Davies
Sent: Tuesday, 1 July 2014, 9:51pm
To: Michael Haggett
Cc: Rhuanedd Richards
Subject: Fwd: Second Appeal

Michael

I'm forwarding the email below from Rhuanedd, and thank you for email you sent me earlier this evening. I'll arrange for it to be circulated it to the other panel members.

Best wishes

Jocelyn

Begin forwarded message:

From: Rhuanedd Richards
Sent: Tuesday, 1 July 2014, 9:29am
To: Jocelyn Davies
Subject: Fw: Second Appeal

Dear Jocelyn

Would you be so kind as to send this on to Michael please. I sent a ‘read receipt’ with the email yesterday morning in light of the problems with the previous email but I haven’t received anything to confirm that it has been read. I am not aware of any current problems with our email system but Michael may want to check the way his computer is filtering emails in case they are going somewhere other than his inbox.

Thank you

Rhuanedd

 
From: Rhuanedd Richards
Sent: Monday, 30 June 2014, 9:22am
To: Michael Haggett
Cc: Jocelyn Davies
Subject: Re: Second Appeal

Dear Michael

I’m grateful to Jocelyn for passing on the email that you did not receive and to you for confirming the grounds of the appeal.

The names of those who will serve on the Appeal Panel, as confirmed by the National Executive Committee, are Jocelyn Davies (Chair), Rebeca Lewis and Alun Ffred Jones.

Kind regards

Rhuanedd

From: Michael Haggett
Sent: Wednesday, 2 July 2014, 10:43pm
To: Jocelyn Davies
Cc: Rhuanedd Richards, Leanne Wood, Nerys Evans
Subject: Re: Second Appeal

Dear Jocelyn

Thank you for forwarding a copy of Rhuanedd's email of 30 June. If you had read the chain of previous correspondence in my email to you yesterday (which was copied to Rhuanedd) you would have seen that I had received it. But I don't mind confirming it again.

Best regards

Michael

From: ---------- [member of staff at Ty Gwynfor]
Sent: Friday, 4 July 2014, 10:30am
To: Michael Haggett
Cc: Jocelyn Davies
Subject: Decision of Appeal Panel

Message sent of behalf of Jocelyn Davies

Dear Michael

Please see attached the decision of the Appeal Panel, July 2nd 2014.

Kind regards

JD Notification of Decision of Appeal Panel, 020714

Appeal Panel 2rd July 2014

 
Decision on MH appeal against Judgement of the Hearing Panel formal hearing on 17th June 2014

 
The Background

A complaint was lodged by EJ in August 2013 following the Ynys Mon by-election. EJ claimed that comments by MH on his public blog during the campaign period undermined the integrity of the candidate resulting in negative attention for Plaid Cymru; MH’s comments were used against the Party by political opponents; and was the subject of a national newspaper article. EJ also claimed the blog content deliberately undermined not only the candidate but also national and local efforts on Ynys Mon and brought the Party into disrepute.

The complaint proceeded to a Panel Hearing following an investigation in December 2013. The Hearing Panel upheld EJ’s complaint and found MH in breach of the relevant Standing Orders. There followed an appeal by MH on procedural grounds and a reliance on factual inaccuracies.

The appeal was held in January 2014 and found in favour of MH in that there had been (i) a failure to inform him of the agreed timetable and (ii) potential factual inaccuracies may have been presented to the Hearing Panel. The Appeal Panel determined that the complaint should restart from the point prior to any possible problems occurring. The decision of the Hearing panel was rescinded.

A second Hearing Panel was set up in April 2014 and a second investigation was initiated. A formal hearing was held in June 2014 which upheld EJ’s complaint and additionally found MH in breach of Standing Orders in relation to behaviour towards the Hearing Panel and placing information about the disciplinary process in the public domain. The Hearing panel concluded MH’s membership of the Party should be suspended for two years and any future application for membership should be subject to scrutiny by the Membership, Disciplinary and Standards Panel.

 
The Appeal

This Panel was convened in order to deal with MH’s appeal against the decision of the Hearing Panel. Conflicts of interest and prior involvement had depleted the availability of any members of the MDSP. A member must have the right of appeal and so it was decided to invite myself, along with Alun Ffred Jones AM and Rebeca Lewis, who are both NEC members, to form an Appeal Panel. I was invited to Chair as I had served on the Assembly’s Standards Committee for a number of years.

MH appealed on the procedural unfairness grounds and on factual inaccuracies potentially influencing the decision. The Standing Orders on the Right to Appeal are explicit that an appeal will not be a re-hearing of the case but contain no details on how an Appeal Hearing shall be conducted. I decided to proceed utilizing, as far as reasonably practicable, the Assembly’s procedures in dealing with appeals which have been developed over time with the assistance of the independent Standards Commissioners. The broad thrust of it provided a useful guide. The Party may want to consider developing a Code of Procedures to assist future Hearing Panels and Appeal Panels.

A paper hearing was convened on 2nd July. We considered:-

The MH appeal bundle
EJ’s complaint
The Investigation Report
The Hearing Panel Judgement
Information placed in the public domain by MH

Bearing in mind that this hearing is not a re-opening of the case, we agreed we should consider whether or not the Hearing Panel addressed the question of whether MH brought, or potentially brought, the Party into disrepute by the comments EJ complained of; if they drew any conclusions from factual inaccuracies which, if they were known at the time, would have likely led to a different outcome; and if there were procedural irregularities that may have prejudiced a fair and impartial hearing.

Before considering these we noted the dismay and frustration of the Hearing Panel as evident in their Judgement that MH had placed a verbatim record of the correspondence sent to him by them into the public domain in direct contravention of Standing Orders. They decided that they would consider that action as an extension of the complaint they were considering. We concluded they were entitled to take into consideration MH’s behaviour towards them during the process in their deliberations.

We found the Hearing Panel did address the central question of whether MH brought or potentially brought the Party into disrepute. In fact they make a reference to “the core subject matter” and the evidence before them on specific comments made.

In assessing whether factual inaccuracies had been relied upon we considered the Investigator’s Report. It states that no response was received from MH in the course of it being compiled. MH disputes this, evidencing an email he sent to the Investigator. Evidence of sending is not evidence of receiving. However, the Investigator’s findings of fact relies entirely on blog posts that were within the public domain that MH posted. The Panel makes little reference to the Investigator’s Report other than they formally received it at the Hearing. They do not give significant weight, if any, to the reference that was written without response from MH. They make several references to the fact that they themselves had not received responses from MH despite their requests. We therefore concluded the outcome was not significantly influenced by the Report’s reference to MH not responding to the Investigator.

The Investigation Report concludes that, in the view of the Investigator, MH’s actions, i.e. the published blog posts, were damaging or potentially damaging to the public reputation of the Party. We felt this was not a matter for the Investigator as investigations should be confined to establishing facts rather than expressing opinion. We feel it is for the Hearing Panel to draw its own conclusions. However, the Judgement makes it clear that the Panel found evidence in the complaint; in the report; and in the public domain in addition to their own experience that led them to their own conclusion. We did not feel the Investigator’s opinion influenced the conclusions reached by the Hearing Panel. For the avoidance of doubt we suggest that future investigations are confined to establishing facts.

We considered if any procedural irregularities had occurred by reference to the Standing Orders. We found the Hearing Panel followed the procedure as laid down, to the letter. For example, the Investigator’s Report was not shared with MH prior to this appeal. Nor was it shared with EJ. The Standing Orders makes it clear that the formal hearing will “receive and examine the report from the Investigating Officer”. It appears from a strict reading of that Standing Order that there is no expectation of sharing the report findings beforehand and the Investigator’s report does not represent the case against those who are subject to any complaint. We therefore concluded that MH was not disadvantaged.

In contrast to that, the Standing Orders are silent on how Appeal Hearings are to be conducted and I had no hesitation in sending MH the Investigation Report. It is our view that had the Report been shared beforehand the accusation that the Investigator was not impartial might not have arisen at all as the Report is clearly even-handed and fair. We therefore recommend a re-visiting of the standing Orders to rectify this so that all parties have access to reports prior to any Hearing in the future.

The Hearing Panel took the precaution of also posting a copy of their electronic communications to MH and sending it via recorded delivery. Evidence of sending is not evidence of receiving. However, the Judgement makes the point that the electronic version appeared on MH’s public blog. We agree with the Hearing Panel this is proof MH received it. We concluded it was irrelevant that MH did not also receive, for some reason we do not know, the hard copy version and no unfairness resulted to MH from not having both versions.

 
Conclusion

This Appeal Panel found no procedural irregularities nor did we find that the Hearing Panel relied on any factual inaccuracies when they addressed the central question as to whether MH’s actions brought or potentially brought the Party into disrepute. We found the Hearing Panel’s conclusions were based on the facts before them. We therefore dismiss the Appeal.

In doing so we recommend that the Party revisit the Standing Orders in light of experience and produce a Code of Practice to assist in any future disciplinary proceedings and we would be pleased to assist in that if required.
 

Jocelyn Davies

3rd July 2014

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11 comments:

Anonymous said...

So let's get this straight. This time round, the Hearing Panel never even ATTEMPTED to send you a copy of the investigation report that they used to find you guilty?

Anonymous said...

Shameful behaviour. Plaid Cymru have lost the plot, lost credibility, and lost any chance of becoming an alternative government.

Parochial little egos don't get trusted to run a country.

Anonymous said...

Seems fair and propotional to me to be quite honest.

Anonymous said...

And so endeth the lesson!

Now please can you get back to focussing on the language! Equally pointless I agree, but a whole lot more fun!

MH said...

Yes, 12:39. Behind all the bluster, Jocelyn made it clear that the only things the packages contained were copies of the three emails I had already received. Eli and her colleagues didn't think fit to send me the investigation report at all. In fact, there is even some doubt about whether what I was sent by Jocelyn on 28 June was the same investigation report that had been considered by the Hearing Panel. The metadata on the document I was sent shows it was created and last modified on 27 June.

So first time round the investigation didn't ask me any questions at all (on the entirely bogus legal advice that it couldn't be done in writing), and second time round I was asked a few nominal questions, but Ian Titherington completely ignored the answers I gave.

The point, of course, is that a proper investigation would have had to conclude that Rhun had lied and that therefore I was justified in calling him a liar. Therefore, the very last thing Plaid Cymru could allow was a proper investigation.

-

Thanks, 13:05. I'm convinced that the majority of the leadership of Plaid Cymru who I have dealt with on this matter are dishonest and untrustworthy, and shouldn't be given a sniff of public office anywhere. But they probably consider those character flaws as the very things that entitle them to run Wales.

-

No, 06:57. There's more to come. One thing I haven't been able to make any public statement about before now is a separate complaint brought by Alun Cox for allegedly breaking Clause 9.1 of Standing Orders. But as Eli and her colleagues made the mistake of finding me guilty of this anyway without giving me any chance to defend myself (and because an appeal has now been concluded) I am free to publish full details of what happened.

Once I've published this, I'll round everything off with a final post.

Anonymous said...

Let's see if I understand this.

Absolutely everybody who have been involved in this process is wrong, untrustworthy, liars, dishonest etc with the sole exception of yourself. They're also all dead wrong while you're dead right.

A little bit of introspection on your part might not go amiss.

Anonymous said...

M.H...."I'm convinced that the majority of the leadership of Plaid Cymru who I have dealt with on this matter are dishonest and untrustworthy, and
shouldn't be given a sniff
of public office anywhere.
But they probably
consider those character
flaws as the very things
that entitle them to run
Wales."

I think that last para is very to the point. "Principles" are disposable, window dressing and positioning to get you elected, to define your market segment, but then to be cast aside under the guise of a"mature" adult politics and "realism". Nick Cohen said years ago that a test of New Labour faith was a willingness to kill the thing you once professed to love. Cohen in his old sober moment may have hit on the CORE truth of the new politics in general.

MH said...

No, 12:39, you don't "understand this", and it would be better to stop misquoting me because it only shows just how little you do understand.

In contrast, 13:58 has hit things pretty squarely on the head. One can only imagine the sort of things that this new Plaid Cymru will be willing to kill in order to gain power.

Anonymous said...

MH - I'm convinced that the majority of the leadership of Plaid Cymru who I have dealt with on this matter are dishonest and untrustworthy, and
shouldn't be given a sniff
of public office anywhere.
But they probably
consider those character
flaws as the very things
that entitle them to run
Wales."

So the majority of Plaid leaders you have dealt with on this matter are dishonest, untrustworthy & suffer from character flaws.

Didn't you support the current leadership? Or have I got that one wrong as well?

MH said...

If by current leadership you mean the pentumvirate, then none of us ever voted for that. I voted for Leanne as leader, but she sold out on her principles as soon as she got elected. See this post. Perhaps there will be hope for Plaid under new leadership; but there's a lot of rotten wood that will need to be cleared away before Plaid again becomes a party in which the membership at conference, rather than the leadership behind closed doors, determines policy.

The rot set in some time ago. The U-turn on student tuition fees is another good example of the Plaid leadership throwing away the principles of the Plaid membership once they were in power. If you are the sort of politician who believes in "mature/practical/realistic" politics rather than acting on principle, the usual rule is that when you sell your soul, make sure you get a good price for it. Sadly, on opposition to nuclear power Plaid's leadership have sold their souls without gaining anything at all.

Anonymous said...

Pentumvirate. Surely you're not suggesting that Plaid Cymru is run by an unelected body or bodies?

We're really in the world of make believe here.

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