Ranks of the Socialist Workers Party are split over handling of rape allegation

Trotskyist group exonerated official because it doesn’t believe in ‘bourgeois court system’ to deliver justice

The Socialist Workers Party was engulfed in crisis tonight over allegations that it set up a “socialist sharia court” to investigate rape allegations against a senior member instead of reporting them to the police.

The scandal, which has opened up deep splits within Britain’s largest far-left party, emerged this week when disaffected members leaked minutes of a controversial disciplinary meeting which exonerated the official accused of rape and sexual assault.

The furore has led to the expulsion of key members and multiple resignations.

Today Tom Walker, a journalist at the party’s paper, Socialist Worker, became the most prominent member to quit the party in disgust.

In a devastating critique published on the rival Communist Party of Great Britain’s website, Walker excoriated the SWP’s handling of the rape  accusations, alleging that the hearing as a “kangaroo court” and “amateur justice that was doomed from the start”.

The minutes of the disciplinary meeting, which was held during the party’s December conference, detail how SWP leaders were determined to keep the matter away from the police and official authorities – with one member stating that the party had “no faith in the bourgeois court system to deliver justice”.

The row is just the latest sexism scandal to tarnish the reputation of Britain’s radical left which tends to portray itself as a fierce advocate for women’s rights. In September, the  Respect Party’s former leader, Salma Yaqoob, quit in protest over comments made by its founder, George Galloway, that the accusations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange simply constituted “bad sexual etiquette” and not rape.

The highly detailed minutes, which run to 27 pages, were first published on Socialist Unity, a left wing blog run by Andy Newman, a Swindon-based Labour Party member. He told The Independent that SWP members contacted him anonymously because they were furious about the way the party had handled the rape allegations.

“I believe that the SWP think they’re outside the law,” he said. “It’s quite clear reading their account of what’s going on that they sort of see themselves as an alternative group in society that is not part of mainstream society. They think someone couldn’t or shouldn’t go to the police because it would damage the party.”

Mr Newman likened the SWP’s disciplinary hearing to an extrajudicial “sharia” system or the much criticised investigations by the Roman Catholic church into clerical abuse that bypassed reporting allegations to the authorities.

The minutes detail how the party’s disciplinary committee met to discuss allegations that had been levelled against “Comrade Delta” – a senior member who sat on the party’s central committee.

The allegations came from an unnamed female party member who claimed she was assaulted over a six-month period between 2008 and 2009 but did not want to go to the police. The disciplinary committee exonerated Comrade Delta with six of the seven panel members backing his version of events. However, in an indication of the huge concerns over how the case was handled, the panel’s findings were only narrowly accepted by 231 votes to 209 votes when they were put to party members.

The minutes show how party  activists attacked panel members for admitting that they knew Comrade Delta personally. One panel member conceded: [We] all knew Comrade Delta. We knew his important role in the party and on the central committee and none of us knew W or knew her well.”

In his resignation letter, journalist Tim Walker wrote: “Though I believe they took the case deeply seriously, this was not a jury of his peers, but a jury of his mates.”

According to the minutes, friends of the woman – who was not allowed to attend the meeting – stood up to say she felt betrayed by the party. One supporter said: “She thought that if she put in a complaint to the party it would be dealt with in line with the party’s politics and our proud tradition on women’s liberation. Sadly her experiences were quite the opposite.”

The Independent contacted the SWP head office for comment on the allegations but received no reply.

The party’s national secretary, Charlie Kimber, did not dispute the veracity of the minutes in a letter to Socialist Unity demanding they be taken down from the internet.

“I do not believe you are motivated by any considerations apart from a desire to damage the individuals involved and the SWP and to achieve tawdry publicity,” Mr Kimber wrote.

Mr Newman denied the allegations, saying he deliberately redacted the names of those who spoke to protect their identities. What was said in the disciplinary hearing was of public importance and justified publication.

The SWP, formed in 1977 out of the  International Socialists, describes itself as a “revolutionary socialist party” in the tradition of Leon Trotsky.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Travel
travel
News
news
News
Sir James Dyson: 'Students must be inspired to take up the challenge of engineering'
i100
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Estimator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Negotiator - OTE £24,000

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An enthusiastic individual is r...

Recruitment Genius: Area Manager - West Midlands - OTE £35,000

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Area Manager is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Area Manager - Yorkshire & Humber - OTE £35,000

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Area Manager is required to ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?