Ex-chair of Save the Children denies misleading parliament

Sir Alan Parker has denied claims that he misled a committee of MPs when he said no formal complaint was made against the charity's former chief executive, Justin Forsyth

Sir Alan Parker
Sir Alan Parker

Sir Alan Parker, former chair of Save the Children, has denied misleading parliament by telling a select committee that no formal complaint was made against the charity’s former chief executive, Justin Forsyth.

Parker had told a hearing of the International Development Select Committee earlier this month that complaints of sexual harassment against Forsyth, who left the charity in 2016, were dealt with through an "informal process of mediation" rather than through a formal complaints process.

Earlier this year Forsyth admitted to having sent inappropriate text messages to junior female members of staff during his time at Save the Children.

The Independent news website has published emails that it claims show a formal complaint was made about Forsyth, but Parker has disputed the claim.

In a letter to the committee dated 24 May, Parker says that the complaint, which was made in August 2015, "was a complaint about the handling of the previous complaint against him, not a complaint about new misbehaviour".

The letter says legal advice Save the Children received was that the original complaints made between January 2012 and March 2015 were resolved through an agreement between the complainants, Forsyth and the charity.

The charity was also advised by lawyers that new allegations would need to come to light to reopen the "disciplinary or conduct matter" involving Forsyth.

Parker’s letter to the committee says: "It was because of this background that the legal advice was that the appropriate way to respond to the complaint made in August 2015 was to establish the review, which was set up immediately, into the way in which the earlier complaints against Justin Forsyth were handled.

"This was alongside a separate review of the culture of the organisation. This was the basis on which I gave my evidence of the facts to the committee."

Parker also told the committee that the original complainant asked Save the Children to treat her August 2015 complaint as a formal grievance, but that legal advice the charity received said "that the course of action on which it had embarked, namely carrying out the review, was appropriate".

The letter says: "Save UK was advised that the case law relating to reopening disciplinary proceedings showed that it would require exceptional circumstances to reopen a closed disciplinary matter.

"We were advised that at the conclusion of the review the trustees would have the necessary information with which to decide whether exceptional circumstances existed to reopen an investigation into the original conduct of Justin Forsyth.

"In the meantime, the matter was taken forward in accordance with the grievance procedure until the grievance was withdrawn."

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