Board’s own panel criticises ‘Islamophobic’ deputy’s suspension

Board’s own panel criticises ‘Islamophobic’ deputy’s suspension

Revelation follows leak of documents seen by Jewish News, from appeal against unprecedented six-year suspension of Roslyn Pine

Roslyn Pine
Roslyn Pine

The representative of Finchley United Synagogue suspended from the Board of Deputies for six years for “Islamophobic and anti-Arab” comments could soon be back – after the Board’s decision-making was blasted by its own panel.

The shock revelation follows the leak of internal documents, seen by Jewish News, from an appeal against the suspension by Roslyn Pine, who it is claimed shared tweets describing Muslims as “the vilest of animals” and Arab migrants as “an invading army”.

In a damning indictment of the Board’s Executive Committee and its chief executive Gilliam Merron, the Appeal Panel questioned whether the decision to “remove” Pine was even available to the Board, given the constitutional restrictions.

Chaired by family lawyer Janet Tresman, the Panel reserved its most strident criticism for the way the Board’s Executive decided to suspend Pine – with no meeting or collective discussion, and no notes kept.

Panellists said they “agreed this was manifestly irregular when the Executive makes a decision of such enormity, never made before, to suspend a Deputy from all Board activities… without a meeting together, without discussion together, and without the wording for their reasons for their decision being recorded at the time, or at all”.

Instead, the landmark decision was taken by an undated “telephone poll” of Executive members conducted by Merron, who later presented the Appeal Panel with a list of names but no notes, only a series of “ticks”.

The Panel said this represented “a serious omission” and will cause embarrassment to Board president Marie van der Zyl, who said before the suspension that the Board needed to improve its transparency in disciplinary matters.

Long before the decision to suspend her in July this year, Pine had been warned about her conduct – in December 2015, and again in May 2016, at which point she was told that any future misconduct could result in suspension.

But the Appeal Panel said a full set of records of past complaints and sanctions against Deputies had not been provided to it and that no precedent had been set or followed for Pine’s six-year suspension, which the Panel found “irregular”.

Most alarmingly, the Panel said both the Board and its Executive had “no authority” to “remove” a Deputy for reasons other than the Deputy having been convicted of a “serious criminal offence,” before sending the decision back for “reconsideration”.

Pine had appealed the decision of a Code of Conduct Panel to recommend her suspension, citing fresh evidence and procedural irregularities. The Appeal Panel dismissed both points, saying there was no new evidence that would have affected the decision, and that the Code of Conduct Panel’s processes were sound.

However, in a litany of complaints, the Appeal Panel then listed a series of perceived failings on the part of the Executive, which ultimately suspended Pine. As a result, the Appeal Panel said: “We remit the decision of the Code of Conduct back to the Executive for reconsideration, preferably by a meeting.”

It is unclear whether the Board’s Executive has since met to reconsider Pine’s case. Earlier this year, Van der Zyl said it was “clear that we need to revise the Code of Conduct”.

A Board of Deputies spokesperson said: ‘The Appeal Panel has upheld the findings and recommendations of the Code of Conduct Panel, which establish that Ms Pine has been a serial offender in terms of expressing anti-Muslim and other obnoxious views, in contravention of the Board of Deputies’ Code of Conduct.

“The original penalty was imposed by following a process devised under legal advice, under the current provisions of the Code of Conduct. Following the recommendations of the Appeal Panel, we are convening a special Executive Committee meeting to consider an appropriate penalty.”

Speaking to Jewish News, Pine said: “The Board’s appeal procedure is very limited in scope, unlike a normal appeal court, which is why the judgement was focused on the unprecedented punishment and the way it was arrived at.”

She added: “I have had tremendous support from many deputies and the wider community, and I shall continue to pursue justice, if necessary outside the Board’s jurisdiction, until there is a satisfactory outcome.”

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