Domestic Abuse Allegations: Statement from Rmt’s Steve Hedley

On 8th March we drew attention to a blog posting by Caroline Leneghan, who is a member of the RMT and assistant Branch Secretary of her RMT branch. Ms Leneghan claimed that  a senior elected official of the union had physically and mentally abused her while they were in a relationship.  At the time I wrote:

this website is not an appropriate forum to decide questions of fact, I don’t repeat the allegations: but instead I refer you to Caroline’s website .. You can then make your own mind up. I feel that there is a danger that this becoming a trial by Internet, but Caroline has already herself put this information into the public domain, and in the small world of the RMT officials and activists, there is no putting the Genie back in the bottle.

Since then, it seems that the RMT has concluded an investigation into the matter, and Steve Hedley, the man accused but whom we did not originally name, has issued his own statement. Mr Hedley makes counter-allegations against Ms Leneghan, claiming that she abused him, and has continued to harrass him after their relationship ended. You can read it in full here. Mr Hedley says:

It is with great sadness that I have to release this statement to clear my name and to protect my family and friends who have been subject to verbal assault cyber assault and even threatened with physical violence. I also truly hope that it will give men who are suffering violence and abuse in relationships some encouragement to come forward and report their abusers. I have already been contacted by a number of men in the trade union movement who have suffered domestic violence but who were afraid to make a public statement out of a misconceived shame and embarrassment about being abused.

Mr Hedley states:

The police questioned me investigated the allegation thoroughly, had the case reviewed by a senior officer and took No Further Action. Ms Leneghan also made a complaint to my employer the RMT trade union which has carried out an exhaustive investigation and found that I had “no case to answer”.

30 comments on “Domestic Abuse Allegations: Statement from Rmt’s Steve Hedley

  1. All very sad. While I am as guilty as anyone else for commenting on the original post, in retrospect we may have all done better to await the outcomes of police and union investigations. Understandable given the shocking photo and the febrile atmosphere around the SWP rape investigation, but I don’t think this site or many of the posters have covered ourselves in glory here.

  2. Robin Carter on said:

    `This website is not an appropriate forum to decide questions of fact, I don’t repeat the allegations: but instead I refer you to Caroline’s website .. You can then make your own mind up.’

    So we can all make our minds up based on CL’s one-sided yarn whilst the accused is unable to put out his side of the story due to an ongoing investigation. What a pile of disingenuous crap. You put a man’s life at risk. I hope Steve Hedley sues this blog, all those who commented in favour of this blog’s wretched witch hunt underneath that story and all those who re-blogged it.

  3. Robin Carter,

    Well good luck with suing as there was no libel from SU.

    The current situation is that each party has put out their version of events. Ms Leneghan complained that the RMT investigation was flawed. Mr Hedley claims the RMT exonerated him.

    I have brought both accounts to your attention. You have chosen to believe Mr Hedley, that is your prerogative.

  4. Howard Kirk on said:

    I was concerned by the apparent attitude of ‘a woman makes allegations of domestic violence so she should be believed’ from certain posters on this site, and that of those posting on the site of Mr Hedley’s accuser.

    Allegations should be taken extremely seriously without any assumption of guilt or innocence until all the evidence has been heard by the relevant institutions.

    It’s quite clear that posting on the allegations on this site would lead to far more people becoming aware of it, and then giving their opinion on the matter. At the same time the investigation is still going on, and where the accused, and the RMT, are not in a position to defend themselves.

    I would have thought that before putting link up, the accused would have been contacted to give their version, and if for legal reasons they were unable to, then this blog which framed the accusations within wider questioning of how institutions dealt with such issues have posted nothing at least until the RMT had ruled on it.

    On reflection, I think an apology from this site to Mr Hedley should be forthcoming for this.

    Of course, this should in no way prevent debate about how unions or left wing parties deal or should deal with the issue of domestic violence.

  5. Howard Kirk,

    You are correct that we framed the discussion in terms of how such complaints should be dealt with.

    The original post remarked upon Mr Hedley’s denial of the facts, and. Also noted that the RMT investigator would surely perceive how the complaint was dealt with differently from how Ms Leneghen did.

    Ms Leneghan had already published. Her account when we drew attention to it, and in these days of social media, the story was already being widely distributed.

    SU did not repeat the substance of her claims, nor endorse their veracity. We raised a debate about how such complaints should be dealt with, and have a clear public interest defence.

    There is certainly nothing to apologise for.

    However, I counsel you to also consider that Ms Leneghan will not agree to Mr Hedley’s character assassination of her.

    It is a sorry business, and I have brought attention to both individual’s accounts now. You can decide for yourself.

  6. Callum M on said:

    “I feel that there is a danger that this becoming a trial by Internet”

    That’s funny.

  7. Hedley’s “explanation” reads like abusers’ bull**** to me and I’m glad he’s out of my party.

  8. Chris Brennan on said:

    Nutter woman accuses vocal anti imperialist, left wing trades unionist, Zionist left side with nutter woman. What a huge surprise.

    [note from tony: I started deleting this nasty piece of work’s comments recently; I wanted to leave this one up so you can get a feel for why]

  9. Leaving aside the complexities of every individual case of alleged abuse on the left, readers may be interested to know that there is a wide-ranging theoretical debate about feminism and marxism continuing in the Weekly Worker:

    http://www.cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/953/women-and-liberation-is-feminism-a-dirty-word?

    http://www.cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/953/swp-and-feminism-rape-is-not-the-problem?

    http://cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/954/letters

    http://cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/955/letters

  10. Jim Hornby on said:

    I’m not going to speculate on who is in the right or wrong about this. I don’t know the truth, any more than anyone else here does.

    But what on earth is a trade union doing ‘investigating’ accusations of abuse within a domestic relationship and why is this being treated as legitimate? Has no one learned anything from the SWP scandal(s)?

    Membership organisations, whatever their political affiliations, are not qualified or indeed legally entitled to rule on criminal cases. The RMT has no business in this matter and is quite possibly obstructing the course of justice by ‘investigating’.

  11. Karl Stewart on said:

    Let’s remind ourselves that one woman has made a statement claiming, in her won words, and in her own statement, that she claims to have had a consensual sexual encounter with Assange.
    A claim of a consensual sexual encounter is not an allegation of rape.

    Even if we were to organise our justice system along the lines of the deeply flawed “Unison women” system of convicting people solely on the basis of female indictment, then there is no rape allegation against Assange.

  12. Howark Kirk on said:

    Karl Stewart,

    It’s from here at the bottom:

    http://internationalsocialismuk.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/resignations-from-sheffield-swp.html

    The bold don’t work so I have shown what the SWP wanted to amend:

    It says:

    *The final point, for those who are unaware, is in reference to the Unison women’s statement
    The CC were informed about the statement published, and about several comrades being approached to sign it. In response, the CC proposed the following amendments (highlighted in bold):

    “We recognise the enormous challenges faced by women victims of male violence, and the pressures which women face, including from abusive men, not to complain about violence and abuse. We therefore believe that, when women complain of male violence within our movement, our trade unions and political organisations should start from a position of believing women THE SWP CC WANTED TO ADD THE FOLLOWING but without making presumptions about guilt or innocence.”

    “We believe that all women who complain of male violence have the right to be listened to and supported, THE SWP CC WANTED TO ADD THE FOLLOWING and to have their complaints properly and sympathetically investigated through due process .”

    The amendments were immediately rejected with comments attacking the Party.

    The CC position then became that no comrade should sign the statement.
    —————————————————————

    Actually, the SWP amendments make it a better statement.

  13. Jellytot on said:

    @7Hedley’s “explanation” reads like abusers’ bull**** to me and I’m glad he’s out of my party.

    I wouldn’t usually link to SP stories (I mean, who needs to with ‘Jimmy Haddow’ around?), however, this is relevant:

    http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/16319

    This should stand in contrast to Delta’s non-resignation and continued activity in his party.

  14. Linda on said:

    This is from Caroline’s statement. She explains the legal process and is open about her mental illness. She is outraged about the lines of question, from what she says, make the SWP’s reasonable with the 2 complainants in that case. It is his word against hers.
    Don’t let his statement fool any of you of that. Caroline says:

    ‘In the past week my case against him was dropped by the police due to falling foul of their timescale for submitting a complaint. Steve has made an official statement to the RMT that the case was dropped and he was found innocent and exonerated. This is completely untrue. The investigating officer said the CPS would not prosecute because the incident had not happened in the past 6 months. Furthermore, I have been told that, had I reported it within 6 months, they would have had enough evidence to charge him with common assault. But due to the lapse in time, they instead had to arrest him on suspicion of ABH. However, the CPS sets a very high bar for chances of conviction (I was informed that they will only bring forward to trial cases that they believe have a 90 per cent chance of conviction).

  15. Karl Stewart on said:

    Howark Kirk,

    You’re absolutely right Howard. The “Unison Women” statement ereplaces the presumption of innocence (a common law protocol that dates back at least as far as the Magna Carta) with an arbitrary presumption of guilt.

    It’s an extremely ill-considered statement and it’s very surprising to see its signatories include a general secretary.

    Anyone “accused” under such a system would be well advised to seek independent professional legal representation immediately.

  16. #22 The statement that our movement should be a safe space for women certainly does not do what you say. It takes the standard progressive approach to any harassment case of starting from a position of belief. Given the prevalence of disbelief and victim-blaming, particularly of women, it is important to give voice to this.

    The statement expresses general aspirations which are a necessary counterweight to the attitude in some quarters of denying that there is a problem of sexism in our movement. It doesn’t seem to me to refer to the particular case which is the subject of this post.

  17. EasternHemisphere on said:

    Jim Hornby: How the hell are the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union ‘competent authorities’ to investigate a case of alleged domestic abuse?

    A complaint was made by a member. Hedley is an RMT officer, they were duty bound to investigate the case. The “competent authorities” as you describe the police and courts have apparently decided to take no action. Whether in this case that is because of an inbuilt bias against accusers in domestic violence cases or because the accused has no case to answer, I have no idea.

    ES: Hedley’s “explanation” reads like abusers’ bull**** to me and I’m glad he’s out of my party.

    Well I don’t know whether it is bullshit. However, I must say that there are things in the statement that leave me, to put it mildly, very uneasy. My guess is that unfortunately this whole case is going to get played out in the civil courts. I’d guess that that isn’t going to be pleasant for either of the parties concerned and if I’m right the press will have a field day at the RMT’s expense. I think the sensible standpoint for those on the left would be to reserve judgement, neither demonising the accuser or the accused until events have played themselves out.

  18. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    I think that this is the “high bar” that the CPS applies to cases where more than six months have passed: not to any 90% or 50% thresh holds:

    “From time to time, there may be exceptional circumstances where a case would ordinarily be considered more suitable for being charged as Common Assault under this Charging Standard, but more than six months has passed since the incident complained of. In such circumstances it may be appropriate (where the injuries were more than ‘transient and trifling’) to charge an offence of ABH, but great care must be taken in making such a decision.
    Such a course of action may be argued as being an abuse of process, and it is therefore necessary to clearly establish the reason for not bringing summary proceedings within six months (or laying a protective information within that time).

    Issues around the nature and complexity of the investigation will be relevant, as will be the stage at which the case was referred by the police. In determining whether the preferring of a charge of ABH in these circumstances is manifestly an abuse of process, or whether in fact it would be regarded as an affront to justice for proceedings not to be brought, reference should be had to the Legal Guidance chapter on Abuse of Process.

    http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/l_to_o/offences_against_the_person/#common_assault

  19. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    Jim Hornby: Membership organisations, whatever their political affiliations, are not qualified or indeed legally entitled to rule on criminal cases. The RMT has no business in this matter and is quite possibly obstructing the course of justice by ‘investigating’.

    Except, of course, there had already been a police investigation in this case.

  20. Danial Young on said:

    Linda:
    This is from Caroline’s statement. She explains the legal process and is open about her mental illness. She is outraged about the lines of question, from what she says, make the SWP’s reasonable with the 2 complainants in that case. It is his word against hers.
    Don’t let his statement fool any of you of that. Caroline says:

    ‘In the past week my case against him was dropped by the police due to falling foul of their timescale for submitting a complaint. Steve has made an official statement to the RMT that the case was dropped and he was found innocent and exonerated. This is completely untrue. The investigating officer said the CPS would not prosecute because the incident had not happened in the past 6 months. Furthermore, I have been told that, had I reported it within 6 months, they would have had enough evidence to charge him with common assault. But due to the lapse in time, they instead had to arrest him on suspicion of ABH. However, the CPS sets a very high bar for chances of conviction (I was informed that they will only bring forward to trial cases that they believe have a 90 per cent chance of conviction).

    A friend of mine was in court this week charged with Sexual Violation.It had taken the police almost two years to get to this point, and after ruthless cross examination by his lawyer the complainant broke down, due to having her history of false complaints of domestic violence by various partners compounded by her long struggle with mental illness.

    The judge dismissed the case, apologized to the jury for their inconvenience and gave the prosecutor and the police a serve for allowing the case to get to his court.

    Make no mistake it was a sad thing to witness, the humiliation of this Lady however,it has to be said that the police in 99% of domestic or sexual abuse accusations the male is automatically presumed guilty by the arresting authority.

  21. articul8 on said:

    Does anyone really believe he suffered from domestic abuse himself? Extremely hard to believe she physically intimidated him.

  22. 31 – domestic violence against men does happen so shouldn’t stretch credulity too much.

  23. Daniel young on said:

    Jota, violence is not restricted to males in a long term or sexual relationship.Familiarity or some other excuse may be offered.Violence is not sex classed.

  24. I know Dan, I’m not sure how my point required you to point that out to me. Perhaps I’m a bit foggy this am.

  25. Daniel young on said:

    So you tolorate violence as a way of life.Violence and its hidden side is cruel.

  26. Actually he was not sacked by LUL and they had to lift their ban on them as it was all rubbish about him assaulting a manager.

    The fact someone used to be in a sport like boxing does not mean they go around beating everyone up. It is entirely possible that the knowledge a man will not and does not engage in violence against women could become twisted into a more nasty situation like the one described.

  27. Memoryman: I find it difficult to believe that someone else could have physically assulted him

    I have no direct knowledge whatsoever of what happened in this instance. But it’s completely possible to be assaulted (and injured) by someone who is not as big or physically strong as you. It ‘helps’ if you are, for whatever reason, reluctant to inflict pain or damage on the person who is attacking you.

    Putting DV situations aside, this happens (for instance) not infrequently in settings such as residential children’s homes or schools which have pupils with behavioural problems. There have been instances where quite significant injuries were inflicted by children on adult staff.

    Memoryman: that nasty little video re. Israel-Palestine.

    Oh sure, I’ve seen some very nasty videos detailing Israeli violence against the Palestinians. But if you have evidence that Mr Hedley serves part-time in the IDF, that would indeed add an extra dimension to this issue!

  28. Taylor on said:

    Why would you refuse to publish her words directly lest you seem biased but happily include directly the smears of her abuser? It’s so plainly obvious

  29. Karl Stewart on said:

    Jon Rogers,

    The statement is profoundly flawed and extremely dangerous and would bring the TU movement into disrepute.

    Of course as a shop steward/TU rep, when the “other party” is not one of our members, then we start from a default position of taking the side of the member we’re representing – that’s our job and that’s ABC stuff.
    And we don’t need a statement from Unison to teach us that.

    But even in such an instance, if our member were alleging something of a serious criminal nature, then a lay TU representative would be extremely ill-advised to start to proclaim publicly that the “accused” is guilty of the allegation.

    If I were a lay TU rep in such a a situation I would immediately seek urgent advice from my appropriate regional officer.

    But the ‘Unison Women’ statement doesn’t appear to make the differentiation between an allegation made by a member against a non-member and an allegation by a member against another member. In such an instance, there is absolutely no “default” position in favour of either “party” for a lay TU rep to take. And again, for a lay TU rep, anything of a potentially serious criminal nature would necessitate immediate referral.
    The ‘Unison Women’ statement doesn’t even make a differentiation where a hypothetical accusation could be made by a non-member against a member. In such an instance, the “default” position is to take the side of our member (and of course, as in the previous two instances, to refer as appropriate.) But the ‘Unison Women’ statement would, in such an instance, have us take a “default” position against our own member.

    The sole criterion in the statement is that of gender. Membership or non-membership is not a criterion, neither is any consideration of any non-gender facts or circumstances whatsoever.

    Were this statement to become TU policy, a non-TU female manager would by enabled to fire at will any male trade unionist employee, with the active support of that employee’s trade union.

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