Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Statement Concerning the Scottish Courts Service

I have worked exceptionally hard over the last three years or so to promote equality within the Scottish Courts Service (SCS) as an unpaid volunteer member of their Equalities Advisory Group (EAG).

During this time, I took on many challenging subjects and in particular took a lot of time, outside of attending our regular meetings, to take forward additional work.  

I enjoyed this work and also looked forward to each of the meetings to which I contributed fully.  

Regretfully, I was told by Chair on Monday (17 February 2014) afternoon, that I was no longer welcome to be a member of the EAG.  

I am disappointed but to a certain extent, not surprised.    

It was not until I raised concerns recently about ongoing disability discrimination and transphobia, which were backed by evidence, that both Chair and the SCS management decided that I was no longer welcome.  

I tried repeatedly to raise these issues but felt that I was ignored.  

In particular, the SCS authorised the refurbishment of a court room in Dundee with scant regard to accessibility and more regard for financial expediency.  

Needless to say, I objected to this as it is not the manner in which our public services are meant to behave.  

It has subsequently been pointed out to me that as an EAG member I have no right to raise a grievance within the SCS and that the dignity at work policy does not apply to members of the EAG amongst other matters.  

In particular, it has also emerged that Chair has the right to remove members of the EAG.  

Raising a complain under the Equality Act is a protected act.  This means that a person raising a complain about disability discrimination and transphobia as I have done should not suffer any detriment for doing so.  

As a basic human right, everyone is entitled to have their dignity respected.  

Additionally, public bodies, such as the SCS, are required to apply the European Convention on Human Rights to all aspects of their work.   

Volunteer Development Scotland, together with the Scottish TUC, agreed a code of practice for organisations that work with Volunteers.  

The SCS does not subscribe to this code.  Amongst other things, the code states that:- 

Effective structures should be put in place to support and develop volunteers and the activities they undertake, and these should be fully considered and costed when services are planned and development.

 Volunteers and paid staff should be provided with opportunities to contribute to the development of volunteering policies and procedures.

 Volunteers, like paid staff, should be able to carry out their duties in safe, secure and healthy environments that are free from harassment, intimidation, bullying, violence and discrimination.

 All paid workers and volunteers should have access to appropriate training and development. 

There should be recognised machinery for the resolution of any problems between organisations and volunteers or between paid staff and volunteers. 

I was not told in advance that Chair intended to remove me from the EAG nor was I told about a secret letter that had been prepared and delivered to Chair by the SCS management. 

I was not given an opportunity to see this letter or address any of its contents. 

I was mislead as to the nature of this meeting. 

I was also accused of being "aggressive and threatening".  

My dignity was violated yesterday and I left our meeting in a distressed state.

At no stage have I ever been aggressive or threatening to anyone.  

I raised a complaint concerning the SCSs failure to address accessibility and transphobia.  I also stated that there was a problem with institutional discrimination.

I was victimised for doing so.

I was bullied by them.  

If the SCS had in place appropriate structures and machinery for addressing my concerns, I am sure that matters would not have gone this far.  Unfortunately, they do not.  

I am disappointed at the manner in which both Chair and the SCS have handled my complaints.  

I am also disappointed that it appears acceptable to unilaterally remove a member of the EAG, to write a secret letter about them and not provide any opportunity to answer its contents and then accuse someone like myself of being aggressive and threatening. 

I am now considering my position.  

A complaint has been made to the SCS about mondays meeting and the failure to address my concerns. 

We will wait and see what happens.  

I would welcome your support right now as it is a struggle to keep up the good fight on my own. 

This is even more difficult and distressing for me because I have multiple disabilities and I cannot come to terms with how this public body has behaved.

Yours for equality,