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Mountaineering Scotland complaints policy

The Board approved the adoption of this policy on 19 January 2017

Appeal” means a request for review of a decision of the Board or under these Rules following a Complaint or any other dispute or matter dealt with under these Rules;

Appeal Committee” means a committee to which the Board has delegated authority in terms of rule 10.3;

Articles” means the articles of association of Mountaineering Scotland;

Board” means the board of Mountaineering Scotland, which shall be entitled to determine Complaints in accordance with these Rules and the Articles;

Club” means a club associated with Mountaineering Scotland;

Committee” means a sub-committee to which the Board has appointed in terms of rule 7.4;

Complaint” means intimation to Mountaineering Scotland of dissatisfaction with a matter or alleging some form of misconduct;

Complaints Officer” means the Company Secretary of Mountaineering Scotland who assesses Complaints under these Rules;

Mountaineering Scotland” means the company Mountaineering Council of Scotland;

Member” means a member of any type of Mountaineering Scotland as defined by the Articles; and

Rules means these rules as amended from time to time by Mountaineering Scotland.

2.1             The objective of these Rules is to ensure overall justice through fair, consistent, impartial and independent decisions in the determination of disciplinary proceedings and Complaints.

2.2             These Rules also seek to ensure that decisions are reached in an expeditious manner for all involved.

3.1             These Rules shall apply to non-members, Members, including all Clubs, office bearers of Mountaineering Scotland, volunteers and anyone registered, affiliated or associated with Mountaineering Scotland in any capacity.  Employee issues are dealt with separately and further to internal policies. 

3.2             The decisions reached further to these Rules shall be observed and applied by all.

3.3             These Rules shall apply to hear and determine the following:

                   3.3.1          Complaints;

                   3.3.2          Appeals; and

                   3.3.3          any dispute or matter referred to Mountaineering Scotland for which there is no express procedure provided for and which the Board is content to have the matter determined further to these procedures.

4.1             A Complaint is any expression of dissatisfaction about any aspect of Mountaineering Scotland, including any action or lack of action, or alleging some form of misconduct.

4.2             Complaints can be made about aspects including the following:

                   4.2.1          a Member’s dissatisfaction with a decision of Mountaineering Scotland or Mountaineering Scotland’ failure to following proper procedure;

                   4.2.2          any breach of the Articles or any policy, rules, regulations or procedures of Mountaineering Scotland;

                   4.2.3          conduct and behaviour of Mountaineering Scotland or anyone associated with Mountaineering Scotland – where it is unsafe, unprofessional, offensive, intimidating or discriminatory, including Complaints made by Members about other Members or Clubs; volunteers who may not be members; and/or

                   4.2.4          any conduct which may be considered by Mountaineering Scotland likely to bring mountaineering in Scotland into disrepute or is considered to be detrimental to the best interests of mountaineering in Scotland and/or the development of the interests of mountaineering in Scotland.

4.3             Complaints may initially be presented to Mountaineering Scotland by:

                   4.3.1          any Member;

                   4.3.2          a parent or guardian on behalf of a Member under the age of 18 years;

                   4.3.3          any affiliated Club; or

                   4.3.4          any member of the Board.

4.4             Complaints regarding the interpretation or application of Club constitutions or rules must be made to the Club.  It may be possible to appeal a Club’s decision under rule 10 below.

5.1             Complaints can be made to the Complaints Officer in person at or by writing to Mountaineering Scotland at The Granary, West Mill Street, Perth, PH1 5QP, or by email to stuart@mountaineering.scot. When submitting a Complaint, the following information is required:

                   5.1.1          the full name and address of the person making the Complaint;

                   5.1.2          as much information as possible about the Complaint, including:

                                  the grounds of the Complaint;

                                  the basis for the Complaint; and

                                  the person or party complained of,

                    5.1.3          a list of witnesses to the matters complaint of; and

                    5.1.4          a list of all documents produced in support of the Complaint and copies of such documents.

5.2             Complaints must be received by the Complaints Officer no later than 30 days after the relevant incident, unless an extension is permitted by the Complaints Officer.

6.1            On receipt of a Complaint, the Complaints Officer shall give preliminary consideration to the Complaint.  This shall involve considering whether the Complaint is competent to be dealt with under these Rules, whether the Complaint has any validity, is unjust, malicious, vexatious or being unreasonably brought, is insufficiently founded or wholly unfounded. 

6.2             Having given the Complaint preliminary consideration the Complaints Officer can undertake further investigation, refer the matter to the Board, or determine that no further action shall be taken. 

6.3             When making a decision under rule 6.2 above, the Complaints Officer shall be entitled to take into account any issue that the Complaints Officer considers relevant and a decision may be reached without discussion or any further representation of the party presenting the Complaint. 

6.4             If considered appropriate, the Complaints Officer will investigate whether it may be possible to resolve the Complaint through informal discussion with the person making the Complaint.

6.5             The Board may provisionally suspend or subject any person to any interim order before or after a Complaint is received. 

6.6             If a Complaint is put before the Board, the Complaints Officer shall narrate the Complaint in writing and provide at the same time all supporting documentation in the possession of the Complaints Officer at that time to the Board.  This may or may not include materials provided by the original complainer, as the Complaints Officer shall be entitled to decide whether or not to rely on such material.

6.7             If a Complaint is rejected at this stage, the Complaints Officer shall notify the complainer that no further action shall be taken.  The Complaints Officer shall be under no obligation to provide an explanation as to why the Complaint was rejected but the Complaints Officer shall be entitled to provide reasons if the Complaints Officer sees fit.

6.8             Pursuant to the foregoing preliminary consideration and any subsequent consideration of the matter or in any way connected to the consideration of any Complaint or in any way connected to the subject of a Complaint, the Complaints Officer shall be entitled to conduct such investigation as the Complaints Officer sees fit and all persons and parties subject to these Rules shall cooperate fully with the same.  Any failure to cooperate with an investigation may amount to misconduct and be considered as a Complaint.

6.9             The Complaints Officer shall be entitled to propose to a person who is the subject of a Complaint that they accept a disposal (which may include any of the sanctions in rules 9.2.1 to 9.2.6 (inclusive)) in substitution for a referral to the Board.  Acceptance of any such disposal shall be binding on all parties. 

7.1             Except as otherwise provided in these Rules, the Complaints Officer shall be entitled to determine any issue or matter of procedure arising prior to, during or in connection with any investigation or preliminary consideration of a Complaint.

7.2             The Complaints Officer may make such enquiries or direct that such enquiries be made as regards the facts related to any matter for consideration by the Board and adduce such evidence secured by such enquiries to the Board as the Complaints Officer shall consider appropriate and expedient for the purpose of securing a just and expeditious disposal of any matter or issue before or which may be before the Board.

7.3             Once a Complaint has been referred to the Board, the Board shall have the power to regulate its own procedure and to determine any matter arising under or in connection with these Rules (except in relation to appeals which are dealt with in accordance with rule 10 below) and in so doing may waive any requirement of and/or extend any period of time provided for in these Rules.

7.4             The Board may consider a Complaint or it may appoint a Committee to consider and determine the Complaint, including in circumstances in which a Complaint directly involves the Complaints Officer and appointing a director to investigate the Complaint.  All references hereinafter to Board shall be taken to include any Committee. 

7.5             The Board may require the attendance of any Member and/or other person at any hearing and/or the production of any evidence relating to or concerning any matter in relation to proceedings.

7.6             A notice of hearing shall be issued if a hearing is to take place.  If no hearing is to take place, alternative directions can be issued.

7.7             No later than 72 hours prior to the commencement of the hearing, the party against whom the Complaint has been made shall enter in writing, to the Board with a copy to the Complaints Officer, their outline response to the Complaint, explaining:

                   7.7.1          whether they accept or deny the Complaint;

                   7.7.2          whether they have any preliminary matters to raise;

                   7.7.3          what, if any, part of the Complaint they disagree with;

                   7.7.4          what evidence they intend to produce;

                   7.7.5          whether they propose to produce witnesses; and

                   7.7.6          whether they intend to be accompanied and/or otherwise represented.

8.1             At the commencement of the hearing, the Board shall confirm the identities of the persons admitted to the hearing and introduce the members of the Board and of any secretary, clerk, legal adviser and/or technical expert assisting the Board.  The procedure to be followed during the course of the hearing shall be outlined. 

8.2             The Complaints Officer shall confirm the nature of the matter or matters in issue before the Board and narrate what documents or other materials are before the Board. 

8.3             Thereafter, the procedure shall ordinarily be:

                   8.3.1          to deal with any preliminary matters (if any);

                   8.3.2          the Complaints Officer shall present the Complaint by outlining the Complaint and presenting to the Board the evidence;

                   8.3.3          the party against whom the Complaint has been made shall be entitled to respond;

                   8.3.4          the Board may ask questions at any time; and

                   8.3.5          closing remarks shall be permitted.

8.4             Parties appearing before the Board may present by oral or written statement, produce original documents or copies, refer to them and call witnesses, all with the consent of the Board.

8.5             In any case where a witness does not attend a hearing for whatever reason, the Board shall be entitled to take account of that witness’ evidence as is made available in any other form, attaching such weight to the evidence as it sees fit.

8.6             Members of the Board may ask such questions of any party or witness at any time.  There shall be no cross-examination of witnesses by or on behalf of a party, except through or with the permission of the Complaints Officer.

8.7             Generally, where a determination on a matter of principle or liability falls to be made by the Board, such determination shall be made and communicated to the party or parties concerned in advance of the consideration and determination of any issue of penalty, remedy, quantum or the like.

8.8             The Board shall conduct its deliberations in private.

8.9             The Board will typically make two determinations at a hearing:

                   8.9.1          firstly, a decision on liability shall be made in relation to upholding the Complaint; and

                   8.9.2          secondly, a decision will be taken regarding any sanctions to be imposed (if a Complaint is upheld or admitted).

8.10           The Board may adjourn or postpone a hearing as it sees fit, whether by its own motion or following an application by any of the parties.

8.11           The Board shall be entitled to determine any matter before it notwithstanding that a party invited or entitled to attend shall fail, decline or shall elect not to attend and/or present any evidence and/or make any representations at or to a hearing.

8.12           Where the Board awards any costs as a sum to meet any expenses actually and necessarily incurred by a successful party in preparing and presenting their case, such costs shall be calculated to exclude any professional charges for representation or otherwise.

9.1             The Board may make whatever order or disposal that it considers just, including the imposition of a financial penalty and/or exclusion/suspension for a period of time or sine die.

9.2             Without limitation to the generality of the foregoing the Board may:

                   9.2.1          provide a warning as to future conduct;

                   9.2.2          reprimand the party;

                   9.2.3          order any party to comply with any obligation or direction;

                   9.2.4          order any party to undergo training or some form of rehabilitation;

                   9.2.5          order that a party may be suspended from membership of Mountaineering Scotland for a period of time or until a condition has been met;

                   9.2.6          order that a party be expelled from membership of Mountaineering Scotland;

                   9.2.7          make such other direction, sanction or disposal, not expressly provided for in these Rules, as it shall think appropriate; and/or

                   9.2.8          make such order as to expenses, including the expenses of the Board, Complaints Officer and/or Board as the case may be and/or other party, as it thinks appropriate.

9.3             Sanctions shall ordinarily take immediate effect, however, they may be delayed in commencing or be suspended at the discretion of the Board.

9.4             In any case where a Complaint is upheld the record of any previous offences of the party concerned shall be considered before the Board concludes its decision on the imposition of a sanction.

9.5             When imposing any suspension further to these Rules, the Board shall have regard to all of the circumstances of the case and any prior cases.  However, the Board shall be in no way bound or constrained by any prior case sanction.

9.6             A person under suspension shall not participate in any activity organised under the jurisdiction of Mountaineering Scotland save that where it is considered appropriate a person may be given a limited suspension provided the limitation(s) are clearly defined.  For example, a person may be suspended from all competition activities but allowed to continue in training and administration activities.

9.7             Suspensions by the Board shall be binding on all Members of Mountaineering Scotland.

9.8             When a fee or fine (not subject to Appeal) due to be paid to Mountaineering Scotland has not been paid on time, the Complaints Officer may apply to the Board to impose a provisional suspension pending payment of the fee or fine.  No further hearing shall be required to impose a provisional suspension pending payment of the fee or fine.  However, the Board shall ordinarily provide the party with an opportunity to respond to the request.  In addition and without prejudice to the foregoing, Mountaineering Scotland shall be entitled to deduct from any monies due to the party for any reason and at any time any monies outstanding (in the form of any fee or fine) in satisfaction of the same.

9.9             When an Appeal is made, the decision and any disposal made and against which the Appeal is taken shall not automatically be suspended.  Instead the appellant shall be entitled to seek that the decision and disposal may be stayed pending determination of the Appeal. 

10.1             An Appeal can be taken against a decision of the Board by any party to the original proceedings in respect of which the decision is made on one or more of the following grounds:

                     10.1.1          that the decision was made in error either as to the facts or in law;

                     10.1.2          that the sanction was imposed was manifestly unreasonable or manifestly excessive; or

                     10.1.3          that the interests of justice require the decision to be overturned or varied.

10.2             An Appeal shall be made by lodging the Appeal with Mountaineering Scotland in writing to the Company Secretary within 7 days of the issue of the written notification of the decision of the Board.  Such notice shall state the ground(s) of Appeal and contain the full reasons and basis on which the ground(s) of Appeal are being pursued.

10.3             Any Appeals for consideration shall be passed to the Board who shall appoint and delegate authority to an Appeal Committee. 

10.4             An Appeal Committee shall be entitled to regulate its own procedure in accordance with the principles outlined above for first instance proceedings.  The Appeal may be determined by way of written representations and without the need for a personal hearing at the discretion of an Appeal Committee.

10.5             Appeals shall ordinarily proceed by way of review.  A re-hearing of a case considered at first instance by the Board shall only be permitted if an Appeal Committee considers that a de novo hearing is necessary.  An Appeal Committee shall only permit new evidence on Appeal if satisfied that such evidence was not available on or prior to the first hearing on reasonable enquiry.

10.6             The following powers are available to an Appeal Committee upon hearing an Appeal:

                     10.6.1          affirmation of the appealed decision;

                     10.6.2          upholding the Appeal in full or in part – this may include setting aside the appealed decision, fully reducing a penalty or modifying a decision to increase a penalty;

                     10.6.3          substitution of the decision appealed against for another – this may include substituting the offence or penalties for lesser or more severe sanctions;

                     10.6.4          upholding the Appeal and remitting to the Board for reconsideration and determination; and/or

                      10.6.5          taking any steps that an Appeal Committee feels are appropriate to justly and expeditiously deal with the Appeal.

10.7             Deliberations of an Appeal Committee will be held in private and decisions shall ordinarily be issued in writing following a hearing or written representations.

10.8             The decisions of an Appeal Committee shall be final and binding on all parties and persons and there shall be no further right of Appeal available to any party or person.

11.1             The Committee can separately sit as an appeals body hearing appeals against any decision of a Club by any party to the original proceedings in respect of which the decision is made if on one of the following grounds:

                     11.1.1          that the Club has failed to follow its own procedures and that the procedural error resulted in the wrong determination or the determination is otherwise demonstrably unsafe;

                     11.1.2          there has been a breach of natural justice and that the breach resulted in the wrong determination or the determination is otherwise demonstrably unsafe; or

                     11.1.3          that any other error in decision-making has resulted in the wrong decision being reached provided always that: (i) the error can be demonstrated to be sufficiently serious and material so as to render the original decision wrong or unsafe; (ii) the decision taken affects the appellant’s rights and/or interests beyond their own Club; or (iii) the interests of Mountaineering Scotland as a whole are served by the hearing of an Appeal.

11.2             Any Appeals for consideration shall be passed to the Complaints Offer who shall give preliminary consideration to the Appeal.  This shall involve considering whether the Appeal is competent to be dealt with under these Rules, whether the Appeal has any validity, is unjust, malicious, vexatious or being unreasonably brought, is insufficiently founded or wholly unfounded.

11.3             Having given the Appeal preliminary consideration the Complaints Officer can refer the matter to the Committee or determine that no further action shall be taken.  If the Complaints Officer rejects the Appeal, the Complaints Officer shall notify the appellant that no further action shall be taken.  The Complaints Officer shall be under no obligation to provide an explanation as to why the Appeal was rejected but the Complaints Officer shall be entitled to provide reasons if the Complaints Officer sees fit.

11.4             Following the Complaints Officer's referral, any Appeals heard by the Committee under this rule 11 will follow the procedure set out in rules 10.4 to 10.8 above.

12.1             Notwithstanding these Rules, the Board shall at all times have the power under article 14 of the articles of association for Mountaineering Scotland to suspend a Member where it appears to the Board that such Member has conducted himself/herself in a manner detrimental to the reputation of interests of mountaineering or Mountaineering Scotland.

12.2             Any Member suspended by the Board under rule 12.1 has the right, by notice in writing to the Company Secretary of Mountaineering Scotland] to Appeal against the Board’s decision at the next AGM of Mountaineering Scotland for a final decision.  After such AGM, a suspended Member will cease to be a Member of Mountaineering Scotland unless that Member has successful appealed the decision on suspension.

The standard of proof on all matters shall be proof on the balance of probabilities.

If proceedings, howsoever arising, are taken against or concern more than one person or Club are connected in some manner then such proceedings may be heard together either on the application of any party, Mountaineering Scotland or the Board.

The Board may publish details of any proceedings taken under these Rules, including details of any sanctions and the identities of the parties concerned, either by its own determination or upon the recommendation of the Complaints Officer or an Appeal Committee.

16.1             Notwithstanding any provision contained within these Rules, the Board shall have the power to regulate the hearing procedures adopted by it and in so doing any may deviate from the hearing procedures in these Rules as it considers appropriate and expedient so as to dispose of any matter before it justly and expeditiously.

16.2             No finding, decision or determination take further to these Rules shall be quashed or held invalid by reason of any defect, irregularity, omission or technicality unless it results in a material doubt as to the reliability of the finding, decision or determination, or would otherwise result in a miscarriage of justice.

16.3             Any matter arising which is not provided for under these Rules shall be decided in accordance with the general principles of natural justice and fairness and having regard at all times to the overriding objectives of these Rules.

16.4             As a general rule all parties shall bear their own costs and expenses except in cases where the Board determines that it shall make an award of expenses against one of the parties.

These Rules are in force from 3 February 2017 and shall be reviewed every 3 years, with the next review taking place on 3 February 2020.