• Tuesday, December 05, 2023

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Probe into Baroness Falkner halted again

The chair of the equalities watchdog was being investigated following the allegations of bullying and harassment

Baroness Falkner (Image credit: parliament.uk)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

AN inquiry into the Equality and Human Rights Commission chair has been suspended for a second time following a revolt from its board members over the handling of the probe, media reports said.

Baroness Kishwer Falkner of Margravine, who has been heading the watchdog since 2020, was being investigated by an external barrister following the allegations of bullying and harassment. But her allies believe she is targeted by the trans lobby for her defence of women’s rights.

The suspension of the investigation followed an intervention by the business secretary and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch after the commission’s board members told the government that they had been “bypassed” in some crucial decision-making over the investigation, according to a Sunday Telegraph report.

The probe had been paused in May after details of the claims of “bullying”, “harassment” and “discrimination” made by EHRC civil servants were leaked to Channel 4 News.

Badenoch is believed to have raised concerns after the broadcaster reported last week that the inquiry had resumed. Her intervention comes as a separate review of the initial leak is carried out.

Former EHRC commissioner Lord Shinkwin has called for an end to the “flimsy inquiry”, saying the Baroness is “a person of unimpeachable integrity”.

“It’s very unfair on her and the EHRC and disabled people,” he told the Sunday Telegraph.

An EHRC source told the newspaper: “This was a witch-hunt from the very beginning. They have made Kishwer into this evil figure.”

“I don’t understand why it (the complaints against the baroness) can’t be done by mediation or some sort of internal process which doesn’t get lawyers involved,” the source said.

In a statement issued to Channel 4 in May, Baroness Falkner said she would take the complaints against herself seriously as worked to “promote the principles of equality and human rights”.

“I will be cooperating fully with the investigation… and have every confidence in being exonerated,” she had said at the time.

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