The following is a suggested structure and process for fact-finding investigations after police or social work investigations involving a paid staff member or volunteer have concluded.
This guidance is for use only when:
- The Church has made a safeguarding referral to the police or social work; and
- A police or social work investigation has been concluded; and
- The Kirk Session/Safeguarding Panel/employer need to then use disciplinary procedures to manage a paid member of staff or volunteer.
To save confusion, there are three types of information-gathering activity:
- The Safeguarding Coordinator's gathering of basic information (who, what, where and when) when an allegation or report is first received
- Police and/or social work single or joint agency investigation
- Fact-finding investigation by the employer (Kirk Session or service provider) only after (2) above and then only after the police/Procurator Fiscal have given the go-ahead.
It is not the role of the Safeguarding Coordinator, Safeguarding Panel or service provider to investigate when an allegation of abuse or harm is first made. It is their role to gather basic information about the situation as above.
It is the role of the police or social work to investigate. They determine if there is evidence, or not, to support the allegation or reported harm. Where there is a police investigation and charges are made the level of proof required is "beyond all reasonable doubt". For fact-finding investigations conducted by the Kirk Session/Safeguarding Panel/employer, a lower level of proof – "on the balance of probabilities"– is used.
With regard to the allegations of harm there will usually be a finding that they are:
- Substantiated (there are facts and evidence that prove that the harm occurred)
- Unsubstantiated (it is not known whether harm has occurred or not and often it is one person's word against that of another)
- The allegations or suspicions are false (there are facts or evidence that determine beyond all reasonable doubt that the harm did not occur). The allegation may thus be false or malicious.
The suggested structure for a report following a fact-finding investigation can be found in appendix 5. This can be adapted to meet your particular needs. For example, providing a report to the Kirk Session, or an employer carrying out a safeguarding-related investigation as part of a disciplinary procedure.