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Labour activists lose High Court challenge over anti-semitism complaints

EIGHT current or former Labour members lost a High Court claim against the party today over its disciplinary process for investigating complaints of anti-semitism.

They alleged Labour had acted unfairly by failing to close investigations or revoke suspensions and expulsions after the equality watchdog found that the party’s disciplinary procedure was unfair.

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said there was “a lack of a clear and fair process for respondents” to allegations of anti-semitism in its October 2019 report, the court heard.

The party responded that it accepted the EHRC’s recommendations and findings in full, with leader Sir Keir Starmer saying Labour would establish “an independent complaints process as soon as possible.”

The eight claimants, who all deny they have made anti-semitic comments, argued the party was trying to “row back from these commitments,” which were made in “clear and unequivocal public statements.”

They sought a declaration from the High Court that Labour had acted unfairly by not closing investigations or revoking their suspension or expulsion after the party committed to following the EHRC’s recommendations.

Two of the claimants — Diana Neslen, who was given a formal warning, and Colin O’Driscoll, who was expelled from the party but following an appeal had his membership cancelled for 18 months — also argued Labour acted unfairly by handling their cases under an unpublished code of conduct.

However Mr Justice Butcher dismissed the claimants’ case in a ruling today.

He said: “The party’s statements that it accepted the findings and recommendations of the (EHRC) report did not amount to an acceptance that use for existing complaints of the current system … was unfair.”

Mr Justice Butcher also refused to make a declaration that Labour acted unfairly by applying a previously unpublished code of conduct dealing with anti-semitism complaints, adopted by the party in 2018, while investigating Ms Neslen and Mr O’Driscoll.

Ms Nelson told the Star: “This is an extremely disappointing decision. 

“The Labour Party had a chance to address the issues properly, but instead they chose to fight this.

“I think it’s a pyrrhic victory because it shows the Labour Party has learned nothing on how to treat its members.

“In the end the we keep on fighting and hopefully the wind will change.”

A Labour Party spokesman said: “We welcome this important ruling that confirms our right to determine how we handle complaints.

“We are getting on with the job of reforming our processes, structures and culture for the benefit of all of our members and to ensure Jewish people feel safe and welcome in our party.”
 

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