Safeguarding Investigation Q&A

On Thursday 4 October, The Times newspaper published a story on Amnesty headlined: “Amnesty told staff to work alongside alleged sex pest Brendan Cox”.

The story focused on an internal investigation into safeguarding procedures at Amnesty International UK (AIUK).

1. Why was the report commissioned?

At the start of 2018, a number of staff raised concerns about the safety of working with Brendan Cox.  As a direct response to these concerns Kate asked that AIUK  commission an independent investigation.  This  was set up earlier this year and   led to the GirlingHughes report. The report was made confidential to allow staff the space to speak freely.

The concerns were raised in the wake of sexual harassment allegations made against Brendan Cox earlier this year that lead to his resignation from two charities that were set up after the tragic death of his wife, Jo Cox MP.

2. What was in the report and has anything been done to support the staff named in it?

As soon as AIUK were made aware that a copy of the report, the management response, the Unite resolution and the letter from the Women and Non-Binary Group had been given to The Times, all of the individuals that we understood to be identifiable in these, were contacted to let them know. Support is being offered to all staff at this time.

3. What did the report conclude?

The report focused on the process and procedures at AIUK.

It concluded that there were failings, that the organisation needs to complete a review of processes and procedures on safeguarding, and that there is a need to train staff on safeguarding.

4. How did the Senior Management Team (SMT) at AIUK respond?

SMT fully accepted responsibility for the failings, and SMT are clear that AIUK needs to improve their processes, procedures and culture to better protect the safety and welfare of staff in their work with AIUK.

5. What reforms are being made?

Safeguarding had already been identified as an organisational priority for AIUK for 2019 and we have already made significant developments this year.

In 2017 we undertook an independent review into our policies and procedures on safeguarding children and  vulnerable adults, and as a consequence, now have a cross-organisational Safeguarding Team in place which is chaired by a Section Board Member as well as new policies and procedure in place.

SMT plan to implement the recommendations of the GirlingHughes report in full.

Extra resources are being made available, and SMT fully welcomes the recommendation to increase capacity and expertise in safeguarding and will be taking this forward immediately.

6. Why did Amnesty first start working with Brendan Cox?

On hearing of the tragic news of Jo Cox’s murder, AIUK was approached in 2017 to support the tributes to her life and work. Jo was known to colleagues personally, her work at Oxfam and her support for human rights meant that SMT readily supported this.

SMT encouraged staff and supporters to attend events in Trafalgar Square, Jo’s constituency and other events throughout the UK. The events were organised by her husband Brendan Cox along with Jo’s family, friends and close colleagues.

SMT were subsequently approached to support The Great Get Together (TGGT) – an initiative designed by Jo’s family and friends to bring people and organisations together to mark the anniversary of Jo’s murder under the banner “More in Common”.

AIUK, alongside a large number of other organisations agreed to support The Great Get Together and, because of its proximity to Refugee Week AIUK encouraged its supporters to work with AIUK’s partners City of Sanctuary to take part in and put on their own Great Get Together events as part of their activities for Refugee Week.

7. Are AIUK still working with TGGT and/or Brendan Cox?

No, AIUK are not working with Brendan Cox. Brendan Cox resigned from his various roles in February 2018 and no longer has an association with The Great Get Together. AIUK are planning to meet with TGGT and will then make a decision on whether AIUK can work with them in the future based on an assessment of AIUK’s priorities and available resources.

However, AIUK does wish to emphasise its support for honouring the memory of Jo Cox MP and the values that she espoused.

8. Is it true, that one member of Amnesty staff said: “We got told ‘make it work’ off the back of Kate wanting to be involved in the Great Get Together.”

At that time, Kate had not been made aware of concerns from staff about working alongside Brendan Cox. In hindsight, AIUK does regret working with Brendan Cox without carrying out sufficient due diligence.

9. Why did no one act on staff concerns about working alongside Mr Cox?

SMT did act once it was made aware of the concerns. Kate did see an article that appeared in The Guardian in November 2015 about the allegations against Brendan Cox. However, she wasn’t informed of staff concerns with regards to the safety of working with Brendan Cox until 2018, and once a safeguarding concern was raised SMT commissioned an independent review.

10. Why was the report with managers for two months before being shown to staff?

After some minor revisions, the final report was received by the Chair of the Board on 16 July. The Board and the Senior Management Team decided that the report should be shared with staff alongside the draft management response. That response was written during July and August this year.

11. Why have there been calls for Kate Allen and senior managers a to face a disciplinary inquiry?

Members of the Unite shop at Amnesty UK made that call and their concerns have now been escalated to the two Boards that oversee Amnesty’s governance.

12. Will Kate Allen and senior managers face disciplinary action?

Both the Section and Trust Boards of Amnesty have seen the report and the accompanying management response and will be reporting back on their recommendations at the end of October. However, the chair of the Section Board, Ruth Breddal, said:

'We are taking this matter very seriously. It is very clear from the report that the right processes and procedures were not in place.

'Looking after the wellbeing of our staff and keeping them safe is of upmost importance, and that is why we commissioned an independent investigation in the first place.


'We welcome the GirlingHughes report and have full confidence in our Senior Management Team to implement the changes that are needed to ensure it does not happen again.



'We also welcome the recommendation of creating a post of Safeguarding Advisor.'

13. What actions are you taking to ensure people like Brendan Cox will not open AIUK’s AGM in the future (as happened in 2017)?

AIUK have already introduced a due diligence process for AGM speakers and are developing this for all of AIUK’s partnerships to make sure AIUK properly take account of the conduct of the people AIUK work with.

14. Are you taking public support for granted?

No. AIUK considers this a serious matter. The welfare and wellbeing of staff and the people AIUK works with comes first. Failings have been identified in this case and AIUK is moving swiftly to make sure this does not happen again.

15. Have the trustees contacted the Charity Commission for any advice on fulfilling their duties in relation to safeguarding?

The work with Brendan Cox was conducted by Amnesty International UK Section. The separate Charitable Trust was not involved in this work. Both the Trustees of the UK charity and the Board members of the UK Section are aware of the Charity Commission’s guidance in relation to safeguarding and received a specific training session on safeguarding in July. They take safeguarding seriously, view it as a priority and have been reviewing their policies. This work is ongoing.

16. If the report and supporting documents had not been leaked what actions would have been taken?

Safeguarding had already been identified as an organisational priority for AIUK for 2019 and we have already made significant developments this year.

In 2017 we undertook an independent review into our policies and procedures on safeguarding children and vulnerable adults, and as a consequence, now have a cross-organisational Safeguarding Team in place which is chaired by a Section Board Member as well as new policies and procedure in place.

SMT plan to implement the recommendations of the GirlingHughes report in full.

Extra resources are being made available, and SMT fully welcomes the recommendation to increase capacity and expertise in safeguarding and will be taking this forward immediately.

Do Kate Allen and the Senior Management Team regret working with Brendan Cox without carrying out sufficient checks on the reasons for his resignation from Save The Children?

Yes, AIUK does regret working with Brendan Cox without carrying out sufficient due diligence.  However, AIUK does wish to emphasise its support for honouring the memory of Jo Cox MP and the values that she espoused.