The Solo Piping Judges’ Association [SPJA], whose Members agree (under its Constitution) as a condition of membership to the terms of its Code of Practice/Conduct, recognises that due process, accountability and transparency must be key features of this Complaints Procedure. The SPJA is committed to dealing with complaints and grievances fairly, consistently and without unreasonable delay.
Any complaints procedure should be based around natural justice where all parties involved are to be treated fairly and offered a fair hearing without bias.
As the Association is small and compact, practicalities may dictate that there may be no need or desire to proceed down a formal hearing process, but the principals of natural justice must still apply regarding fairness and bias.
While it is difficult to precisely define what natural justice means, the contents and meaning is quite easy to identify.
- That all the parties should be heard before deciding an issue;
- That the hearing must be before an impartial Judge/Chair, as no man can be judge of his own cause. Therefore the hearing must be before an unbiased Judge/Chair;
- That the Judge/Chair should decide in good faith. He should have no bias, personal or pecuniary; and
- That the decision must be a reasoned one and therefore, the decision must be evidenced by a verbal and written order that enumerates the reasons for coming to a particular conclusion.
It is inevitable and accepted that members of the Association on the committee will, from time to time, be asked to look into complaints made against fellow members.
It is imperative that the principals of natural justice apply and that the reviewing officers must give all parties a fair hearing and act in an unbiased manner. A clear paper record of process will be maintained in writing.
This procedure will be used to process and investigate complaints or grievances received from any source concerning the competence or conduct of Members in relation to alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct or alleged behaviour unbecoming to a solo piping judge; however, anonymous complaints will not be accepted.
All complaints should be in writing, either by letter or email, and addressed to the Chair of the SPJA.
The Chairman and the committee reserve the right to reject any complaint at source that, in their opinion, does not sit within the realms of the SPJA. This may of course involve some initial communication with the source of the complaint and members of the committee, but if the complaint is deemed to be outwith the Association’s remit then it will not be allocated for investigation. The Chair will inform the complainer accordingly, in writing.
It is understood and accepted that the President of CPA will have vetted complaints from the Competing Pipers Association membership prior to submission and deemed them not to be frivolous. The author’s signature will, for the benefit of anonymity, be removed. Such complaints will therefore not be viewed as anonymous and will be reviewed in the normal manner. Any attempt to make contact with the author of such a complaint, by the reviewing member, should be made via the CPA President.
In cases that merit more detailed investigation the reviewing officer may request the identity of the complainer to further the enquiry. This request will be made via the Chair.
All complaints will be dealt with confidentially so far is as reasonably possible and all parties must keep information learnt during this process confidential. The Committee will be seen as trustees of this information.
In general terms SPJA Members will not normally be suspended during the complaint process, but the SPJA Committee reserves the discretionary right to suspend a Member during a complaint process if the Committee considers it appropriate in all the circumstances.
If an SPJA Member is found to have deliberately provided false information or makes a false complaint or allegation during the grievance process, this will lead to disciplinary action being taken by the SPJA Committee.
When a complaint is first received the Chairman will review it prior to allocating it to two members of the committee for investigation. The Chairman will take no further part in the review process.
The subject of the complaint will, as soon as practicable, be informed by the Chairman about the complaint via email. This will include the nature of the complaint, who is enquiring into it and, the source of the complaint.
The nominated lead reviewer will make contact with the subject of the complaint as soon as possible. This will provide an opportunity to discuss the complaint in more detail and allow dialogue between the reviewing officer and the subject of the complaint that may assist an early resolution.
The nominated reviewer will also contact the complainer to inform them that their complaint has been allocated for enquiry. This will allow the reviewer to obtain a more detailed picture, clarify any ambiguities that may exist in the original complaint, and provide an opportunity to inform the complainer about due process and potential outcomes.
If the complaint is deemed to be of a minor nature this may allow the reviewer to provide a ‘front line’ solution and resolve the issue at source.
The reviewing member(s) will keep a written record of process that will be retained.
They will verbally keep the subject of the complaint informed of the progress of the investigation every 4 weeks.
Depending on the nature of the complaint every attempt should be made to resolve it with 3 months.
- If the complaint is of a relatively minor nature and a resolution has been found during the early stages of the review the Chair will be informed via a brief written report. He will in turn write to the complainer and the subject of the complaint confirming the outcome.
The matter will be considered as closed.
- If the complaint is of a more serious nature or has not been resolved during the initial review process and where the complaint has not been substantiated, the reviewing member will submit a more detailed report to the Chair, who will write to the complainer and the subject of the complaint, informing them of the circumstances and result.
The matter will be considered as closed.
- If a complaint has been substantiated and the subject of the complaint has been found to be in breach of the Code of Conduct, or any other action unbecoming of a member of the Solo Piping Judges Association, a written report will be submitted to the Chair. This report may or may not include a recommended course of disciplinary action from the reviewing officers. The Chair may then take the opportunity to discuss the case with the other members of the committee before reaching a decision.
3.1 In the case of minor complaints, where early mediation has resolved the issue or where the complaint has been found to be unsubstantiated, the Chair and his/her committee will retain a record/file for a period of 3 years.
3.2 In the cases where a complaint has been upheld the Chair, in consultation with the committee, will discuss appropriate disciplinary action.
3.3 At this point the Chair may invite the complainer and/or the subject of the complaint to a committee meeting, chaired by him, prior to determining and administering any disciplinary action.
3.4 If the Chair elects to hear evidence as outlined in point 3.3 then the panel will consist of
- The SPJA Chairman (or the Vice-Chairman as deputy) to act as Chair;
- The SPJA Secretary; and
- One or two ordinary members of the SPJA Committee.
Such complaints will be retained on file for a period of 5 years.
Where a complaint is upheld and found to have substance the Chairman and his/her committee will have recourse to the following actions.
- A verbal warning where advice and counsel may be recommended. This will be recorded on file.
- A warning letter. The Chair and the committee reserve the right to tailor the content according to the content of the complaint and the result of the review.
- Suspension from the list.
- Removal from the Judging list. In serious cases the Chair and the committee have the right to suspend a member from the list with immediate effect.
Where a member receives 2 warning letters from the Chair that person will be suspended from the list. The Chair will ask the member to attend a formal hearing in front of the committee to discuss their position. Refusal to attend such a meeting may result in removal from the list.
Any member has the right to appeal any decision
A full and comprehensive case for the appeal must be submitted to the Chair within 21 days of the original decision. The Chair will allocate the appeal and the case file to other members of the association not serving on the committee.
In serious cases the Chair may consider asking an independent panel from outwith the Association to review the case. To remove all areas of bias or perceived bias these individuals may or may not have a connection with the piping world and in any case be asked to declare any vested or conflict of interest prior to accepting the appeal role.
Is behaviour by an Association member that is so serious or gross that it completely undermines the Associations trust and confidence in the member to perform their duties.
It may be seen as behaviour which is so damaging that it irretrievably destroys the Association/member relationship for which said member could be immediately suspended or removed from the judges list.
Gross misconduct covers a multitude of disciplinary offences such as theft, physical violence, gross negligence, serious insubordination, bullying, corruption and the like.
The following are common examples of gross misconduct:
- serious, repeated or gross non-compliance with the Code of Conduct;
- providing dishonest or misleading information while judging,
- incapability as a result of being intoxicated by reason of alcohol or drugs;
- use of foul or abusive language;
- gross insolence or insubordination;
- violent, dangerous or intimidatory conduct;
- dishonesty or theft;
- serious, wilful or reckless damage to, or the abuse of, or the neglect of property;
- fraud or deliberate falsification of documents including reports and accounts,
- bribery or corruption;
- sexual, racial or any form of unlawful harassment or discrimination.
Crucial to good complaints handling is an underpinning culture that truly values complaints.
For the positive benefits of complaints to be harnessed it is important that the right procedures are in place to receive, examine, review and resolve complaints in a fair unbiased manner that will stand the test of scrutiny.
This guidance is a tool to help the Solo Piping Judges Association move towards a transparent, fair and open process. The members of the Association will always act in good faith and provide all with an open platform for a fair hearing.
It outlines how the Association can put its members at the heart of the complaints process and develops a timely, simple and streamlined process with a strong focus on early resolution.
It is important to recognise that the Association numbers are small with potential for less cumbersome administration and regulation however this document should be viewed by its members as a necessary tool to preserve and protect the integrity of all in a fair and unbiased manner.