Yesterday, Verita released a report on their investigation into how David Challenor was allowed to fulfil the role of an election agent for the Green Party whilst facing 22 serious charges including rape and sexual assault of a child.
Aimee Challenor, who has been a national spokesperson on LGBTIQA+ issues and a member of the executive of the Green Party, appointed their father, who was on trial for sexual crimes against a minor, as an election agent without properly alerting Green Party officials. The officials who were informed to an extent failed to investigate further. When David was convicted, Aimee fully informed Green Party officials and, after initial equivocation, the party resolved to fully investigate the matter via the firm Verita. Aimee quit the party, alleging transphobia.
Verita have just released their report, which, after reading, raises further questions. Selected information from the report along with commentary follows.
Both Aimee and Tina Challenor, (the wife of David Challenor and Aimee’s mother), claim to have believed that the reporting restrictions around the charges at the time prevented them from warning people about David’s charges. It seems too coincidental for both to come to that erroneous conclusion independently. Did they discuss it at the time and decide to stay silent – or did they later agree together to claim this as their excuse for keeping quiet? Verita note that ‘It would be undesirable if [reporting] restrictions were to discourage someone from identifying an alleged perpetrator in a way that might lead to people being placed at risk’. Perhaps Twitter should consider this point.
Aimee did use Facebook to alert Matt Hawkins, a member of the national executive of the Green Party, and one of three external communications co-ordinators for the party. Also included in the conversation was Clare Lorraine Phipps, the chair of the national executive committee. Aimee informed them that David was being charged with 22 offences – ‘the majority of them sexual’. Matt Hawkins responded and offered support ‘as friends (as opposed to colleagues!)’. Matt Hawkins admitted that ‘his first instinct was to look after Aimee and to give her re-assurance that he would handle issues that arose.’ Clare Lorraine Phipps took no action because she was reassured by Matt ‘he had managed the communications issue with the press office’. Verita note that this ‘allowed Aimee to say afterwards that she had “told the party”’, without fully ensuring action was taken.
“Prioritising the safety of children and vulnerable people is an individual responsibility of every member of society. There could hardly be a bigger ‘red flag’ in this respect than someone being charged with 22 sexual offences.”
Aimee participated in Green Party politics as a candidate four times, each time without further disclosure of David’s charges. Furthermore, Aimee encouraged him to become more involved in the Green party throughout that time. The report finds that Aimee made several errors in judgement not just in the course of protecting others but also putting Aimee’s own reputation at risk. Aimee claims that both autism and the pressures of the time made it difficult to make the appropriate judgement calls. However, if Aimee’s reasoning was impaired during the period David was charged, was it also impaired over the course of the four times Aimee stood as a Green Party candidate?
Verita found that ‘Those in the party who were told about David Challenor’s activities saw the issue as primarily a communications one – about protecting the reputation of the party.’
Were they primarily concerned about protecting the party, or primarily concerned about Aimee? Did Aimee’s status an an autistic, transgender teenager from a troubled background prevent Matt and Clare from taking an objective view of the situation – focusing primarily on Aimee’s well-being rather than the reputation of the party or safeguarding concerns? Verita argue that, although the pursuit of including ‘young, diverse and potentially inexperienced people’ in the party and in particular in leadership positions is noble, more training and support needs to be given to such individuals.
This raises concerns that people are being elevated into roles they are not capable of fulfilling, solely based on their status as ‘diverse’. While we should remember that such ‘diverse’ people have often been excluded from positions of power and influence, to commit to inclusion means to treat them like human beings – flawed but capable of making decisions for themselves. Not as simultaneously someone who can hold positions as a national spokesperson on LGBTIQA+ issues, a member of the executive of the national party, and a suitable candidate for deputy leader of the party, and yet also be a vulnerable and innocent teenager whose autism and stressful circumstances lead to them potentially allowing children to be exposed to a sexual predator.
The Green Party has wholly accepted the recommendations of the Verita report and have resolved to implement them immediately. Aimee Challenor has responded by updating their facebook profile photo to display a Liberal Democrat party emblem.