Councillors clash over harassment allegations

A LAW Society council member who described the handling of harassment allegations against former vice-president John Young as “deplorable” has been forced to make a climbdown.

Former president Mark Sheldon secured the retraction from his council colleague John Franks during a debate last Thursday on the measures needed to stamp out harassment in the profession.

But he admitted he may have behaved “unwisely” in his response to the allegations made against his colleague in the spring of 1993, shortly before Young was to become the society's deputy-vice president.

For the first time council members publicly debated the reasons behind Sheldon's decision to allow Young to assume high office despite the “numerous allegations” about his conduct revealed to him and his fellow office holders by council member Eileen Pembridge.

“I was faced with a situation where complaints were made, but the complainants didn't want to take them further by going to the SCB,” said Sheldon.

Equal Opportunities Commission chair Kamlesh Bahl welcomed an interim report calling for better procedures to deal with the problem, including the use of trained advisers to handle formal and informal complaints and a confidential telephone helpline. She said: “This council must provide leadership on this issue.”