A new report has criticised Green Party safeguarding after a child rapist was allowed to act as an election agent for his daughter, deputy leader candidate, Aimee Challenor.
The Green Party commissioned the report after learning that 50-year-old David Challenor had remained an active member whilst facing serious sexual assault charges as his daughter ran for the deputy leadership role in 2017.
He was found guilty of 20 offences in 2018, including the rape of a 10-year-old girl who he held captive in his attic, assault causing actual bodily harm and taking indecent photographs of a child. He was jailed for 22 years.
Ms Challenor was suspended on a no-fault basis while an independent investigation took place, the results of which were published in the report.
Aimee Challenor, left, with Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley in 2017. Image: Getty
The report found that Ms Challenor had raised the issue of her father's charges with member of the national executive of the Green Party, Matt Hawkins, in a casual exchange on Facebook messenger in 2016, with national executive committee chair, Clare Phipps, also copied in.
Ms Challenor mentioned that the majority of the charges were "sexual offences", and received a response from Mr Hawkins, saying: "I’m so sorry Aimee. How are you doing? Is there anything we can do as friends (as opposed to colleagues!)?”.
At the time, Mr Hawkins was one of three external communications co-ordinators for the party, with Ms Phipps acting as the line manager for the party's CEO, Nick Martin.
An image of David Challenor released by West Midlands Police. Image: West Midlands Police/SWNS
The report says that the West Midlands Police should also have informed the Green Party of Mr Challenor's charges, due to political campaigning involving unsupervised access to young people.
The report concluded there was a "low level of awareness" of safeguarding issues and risk within the party, and called for an "urgent review" of its safeguarding policy.
It continued: "Those in the party who were told about David Challenor’s activities saw the issue as primarily a communications one – about protecting the reputation of the party. Awareness of safeguarding issues in the party in general appears to be low."
Ms Challenor's response
The full statement released by Aimee Challenor
Responding to the investigation, Ms Challenor said she had "taken onboard" suggestions put forward in the report.
She said that she stood by an apology she made in August for appointing her father as her election agent, adding that her "thoughts continue to be with" the victims of his crimes.
"I hope that better support, advice and training will be offered to volunteers at all levels of politics, across all parties, so that we can improve the state of British politics," she added.
A Green Party spokesperson said: "On 10th January 2019 The Green Party of England and Wales published the independent investigation, carried out by Verita, into the circumstances surrounding David Challenor acting as an election agent for his daughter, Aimee Challenor, in 2017 and 2018. The full report was made available to our members, and an executive summary released publicly.
"The Green Party accepts all recommendations offered by the report, and is taking immediate action to make the changes necessary to implement them.
"Importantly, this includes putting in place a team, led by the Chief Executive Officer, to update the Party’s safeguarding policies in line with best practice and expert safeguarding advice.
"These will be regularly reviewed by our executive. We have additionally reviewed our General Elections candidate nomination form in order to strengthen and make absolutely clear what is required in the disclosure process. We are also reviewing how we select, manage, mentor and monitor our spokespeople.
"The report makes clear that there was no knowledge of the criminal charges against David Challenor by anyone in the local Coventry Green Party, national party or national office until he was sentenced – aside from two people who were then members of the directly elected governing executive and who failed to take the appropriate and necessary action that would be expected of senior elected members of the executive.
"We deeply regret that this situation arose and we apologise unreservedly for any concerns that this will have caused and any safeguarding risks it may have given rise to."