In our field of work we take formal victim and witness statements to a high evidential standard for a wealth of different reasons – sometimes they relate to internal employee investigations, sometimes they are to do with road traffic collisions to name but two.
On this particular investigation we were brought in by a high profile national company who had offices in the North East and who wanted one of their employees interviewed and the legitimacy of her claims explored.
More and more in the age we live in, companies and employers need to fully embrace the weight and responsibility to their employees born from the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements – taking seriously ALL allegations of harassment and abuse of power. But more importantly doing so sensitively and, where possible, independently.
In this instance, as discussed below, an exploratory interview with one individual would inadvertently lead on to a complex internal investigation led by our team and a further nine statements needing taken.
The company had received a complaint about their director of operations in relation to what was alleged to be sexual harassment towards a very junior member of staff within his team. We’ll call the director of operations ‘David’ and the complainant “Megan”.
Megan stated that David made repeated sexualised remarks towards her and other female staff and that he often thought up extraneous reasons for her to work in his office where he would often make her feel physically uncomfortable by doing things like using his foot to caress her upper thigh when sat across from one another at a desk.
We interviewed Megan and found her highly credible and believable in what she was saying. She was able to provide a corroborative witness to some of the incidents as well.
It was only when interviewing this witness that we came to learn from them that David had family and friends that worked in the same office and in the company’s HR department and that the reason he was able to “off-set” or “be ahead of the allegations” all the time was because he was being fed information internally by staff members who had personal allegiance to him but had no right from a confidentiality perspective to the information they were sharing.
We would come to learn that David had starved off a lot of allegations in the past purely by having friends within the company’s relevant departments who did well to diminish them, make them go away or to adversely counter against the complainants.
We arranged with our client to draw the investigation and who we reported to away from the company directly and completely cleanse it of any possible conflict. We then started to speak to directed staff; all of them under the guarantee of complete anonymity, away from the premises – and suddenly an entirely different picture emerged:
One witness interview led to a fresh victim who when interviewed could direct our investigators to at least another TWO victims plus witnesses for people who had long since left the company because of David’s behaviour and were ‘encouraged’ for the sake of their reputation to remain quiet in the industry. His sexualised and abusive behaviour could ostensibly be dated back as far as 2005.
We compiled all of our statements and put together a findings report which we presented singularly to one point of contact for the company at their national headquarters and David was summarily suspended with immediate effect and subsequently dismissed from the company for gross misconduct.
This is just one example of the type of work we deliver independently to commercial business clients within the region.
If you would like to learn more about what we do and how we do it, book a FREE consultation with us today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.