The outcome of recent sexual assault allegations against former Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, is a pretty great example of what can go wrong during internal investigations. In case you haven’t been following the issue, said outcome was “insufficient evidence” to provide an outcome. Here’s why that outcome is rubbish for everybody involved:
The investigation, conducted internally by the NSW National Party, spanned eight months. During this time, complainant Catherine Marriott claimed she was extremely frightened and never wanted to be publicly identified, while Barnaby Joyce stated the allegations were spurious and defamatory. Investigations, particularly into allegations of such a serious nature, deeply affect the persons involved. As such, it is vitally important that the investigation is conducted swiftly, accurately and sensitively in order to minimise the impact on all parties.
But what’s worse than waiting eight months for an outcome, is waiting eight months for precisely no outcome. Findings such as this mean that no one gets to move on. The alleged victim gets no closure, and doubt is cast over both the allegations and her reputation. On the other hand, the alleged perpetrator is not found guilty, but he is never actually cleared of guilt either. An air of suspicion will always remain around both parties. Finally, the National Party itself (and by extension, everyone involved in the investigative process) may garner suspicion with regards to their investigation processes, procedural fairness and bias, all of which will ultimately affect its reputation: few people wish to work somewhere where complaints are inadequately handled and where they perceive more powerful staff are favoured, often with predetermined outcomes.
Inadequate or mismanaged internal investigations can culminate in unfair dismissal cases and other legal proceedings. In fact, the statistics show that 40% of organisations have had legal proceedings at least once following an internal investigation. This suggests the parties involved have concerns over the overall fairness of the process and desire external input.
You can ensure that all investigations are conducted in a swift, thorough and unbiased manner right off the bat by engaging an external investigator. Apart from avoiding all of the undesired outcomes mentioned previously in this post, there are many more benefits to allowing an external investigator to conduct your investigations:
- External investigators often have many years’ experience in conducting investigations. At The Huxley Hill Group, our investigators are ex-police who are proficient and knowledgeable in the entire investigation process and Fair Work Act obligation, from the pre-planning process right through to interviewing and drafting outcome reports.
- External investigators are impartial and have no working relationships with those connected to the investigation. This is particularly important in achieving fair and unbiased outcomes.
- Conclusive findings are offered based on the balance of probabilities.
- Instils trust in the investigative process, and therefore in the organisation engaging the investigators.
- Ensures those involved feel heard and supported, an often-overlooked aspect of internal investigations.
- Many employees feel more comfortable sharing information with an external investigator, rather than with colleague who may have preconceived thoughts about the interviewee.