Senator David Van resigned from the Liberal Party after Senators Lydia Thorpe and Amanda Stoker, and a third unnamed female, levelled allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Opposition Leader Peter Dutton was quick to remove Senator Van from the Liberal Party Room and within days Senator Van tendered his resignation.
Sexual Allegations Vs Unlawful Conduct
This blog is not about whether the allegations are true or false. It is about the process of dealing with anything from what could be said to constitute socially unacceptable behaviour right through to unlawful conduct. What is in issue is that without particularisation of say an accusation of inappropriate touching, there is no way to judge where along the spectrum of conduct the impugned act sits. This leads to decisions as to how the matter should be appropriately handled commencing with a decision of whether the touching should be reported to senior personnel or police.
Putting to one side what Senator Van is said to have done, the glaringly obvious problem here is that he has been found blameworthy just on the say-so of these Senators. There has been no reporting that systematic and comprehensive steps have been taken to verify the allegations. Simply, allegations have been made. It does not make the allegation against Senator Van true because others have chimed in with similar allegations. The addition of allegations from multiple sources may pass the pub test – a notional measure of public opinion. However, in this situation and especially when the stakes are so high the so-called pub test falls well short of delivering a just outcome.
Here the question is whether the allegations were first reported to third parties, especially the police if the behaviour appeared unlawful. What investigative steps were taken to gather evidence for and against Senator Van? How was the evidence tested? And what findings were made?
Insufficient Procedural Fairness & Integrity
Where there is a lack of procedural fairness there is a lack of integrity in the whole process, which in this case ultimately led Senator Van to resign. Again, he may well have offended those alleging sexual misconduct but their allegations have not been properly tested. What is alarming is that this all happened in the Australian Parliament where laws are made and between the elected lawmakers. Don’t hesitate to contact your most trusted criminal lawyer for legal processes and detailed information.