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Leading abuse lawyer warns organisations over harassment policies as 'dam bursts’

Abuse lawyer warns membership organisations over harassment and assault procedures as ‘dam bursts' with further allegations of sexual assault and harassment in both parliament and the entertainment industry

1 November 2017

Alison Millar the head of abuse claims at law firm Leigh Day explained that those membership organisations with a responsibility for the welfare for their members, could face legal action if they were found not to have dealt with non-recent and recent allegations appropriately.

Ms Millar said: “What we are seeing now is the collective response to a societal disease which has been overlooked for far too long. As we have seen in many cases of abuse, once survivors of sustained abuse or an assault feel that they will be listened to, they will speak up and the dam bursts. "

"What makes parliament and the entertainment industry particularly prone to these types of behaviour is the fact that the harasser is either the direct employer of the victim or can have a significant impact on their career, in sectors where the perpetrator may be a self-employed office holder or contractor.

“The allegations of abuse by members of Parliament and the lack of any one person to hear these claims, as most staff are employed directly by MPs and their offices, suggests a massive gap in the welfare of those men and women working in Parliament.

"The entertainment industry must also be aware of its legal responsibilities. Studios, production companies, theatre companies and unions representing actors must have the correct procedures in place to deal with allegations and to take them seriously regardless of the fame accorded to the harasser.

“These organisations must realise that whilst they may not directly employ people, with many actors being self-employed, they could be held liable if it was found that they acted in a way which either perpetuated the behaviour of an abuser or facilitated it through turning a blind eye.

"The law is evolving in this area, treating some of those who appear to be independent contractors as if they were employees or workers when it comes to responsibility for their wrongdoing.

“The power and influence of a man, or woman, should never be a consideration in the reporting of sexual misconduct to the correct authorities. If any organisation was to be found to have brushed these matters under the carpet, they would have to answer for that behaviour, as would the alleged perpetrator.”

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