Conduct Statement 03/07/20

Profound Decisions has received a number of emails regarding the criminal record of a former crew member and decisions we made about his attendance of events. We feel that we owe you an explanation, an unreserved apology, and a public commitment to what we will do now.

In 2018 I was informed by an Empire participant that a senior member of our administration team had a conviction for downloading indecent images of children.

The conviction occurred approximately 11 years ago and as a result, the individual was no longer on the Sex Offenders Register. In law such people are no longer a notifiable risk for roles other than sole supervision of children or similar.

We spoke to the police and probation service and discussed the structure of our event and the measures in place to protect young participants with them. We contacted them again today to recheck our understanding.

On the basis of the advice I had at the time, I judged that such an individual did not represent an undue risk, and I accepted that the ability to attend events like Empire was an important part of rehabilitation for such offenders. After extensive discussion with my conduct team, we agreed to allow them to continue to participate in Empire - after we had put in place additional restrictions on their behaviour to further reduce the risks.

I realise now that this was a profound error of judgement on my part. I followed the guidance I was given and put my desire to support the legal processes of rehabilitation above my duty to protect the people who choose my events. I took what I was given at face value when I should have consulted more widely with experts whose experience is in supporting victims of such crimes to get a better understanding of the risks involved, the potential threat presented, and the impact on players’ ability to feel safe at events. I thought I was doing the right thing - but I was not - and I’ve let down everyone who put their faith in me to make these decisions as a result.

Although I believe this is the most serious error I have ever made in dealing with a conduct issue, it is far from the only error I have made. I got involved in live roleplaying because I am good at creating imaginary worlds and imaginary problems for people to deal with. But as it has grown in size, Profound Decisions has faced an expanding range and number of real world problems to deal with - and it is increasingly clear that I am not good at dealing with those issues. I have tried at every turn to make fair, unbiased decisions, but the plain truth is that I lack the lived experience to make the best judgements on crucial matters of conduct. It is time to acknowledge that the problem here is me and my lack of expertise in dealing with these matters - and to take steps accordingly.

I have therefore agreed the following course of action with my team:

  1. I will immediately remove myself from the conduct team with permanent effect. Although I am not the head of the team, my mistakes have made my continued participation in the conduct process untenable. I am confident that my Head of Conduct, Emma Woods, and her team, will make better judgements free from any involvement by myself. Going forwards Emma and her team will receive support from Clare Evans and Graeme Jamieson from the game team, not myself. We will put a firewall in place so that her team can carry out all conduct duties up to and including banning participants without the need for any involvement by me.

  2. From now on, we will follow the principles applied by companies like Facebook and refuse admission to the event to any individual whose sexual offences are part of the public record. We know that there are significant legal challenges with this approach and we’re not blind to those - but this is the policy we’re implementing now. In the unlikely event that we end up being forced by the legal system to amend the policy we’ll let everyone know about it.

This change is in line with the current direction of changes that we are working through as we develop our new conduct procedures. Although that process is not yet complete, I am announcing this change now so that people can be reassured that this will not happen again.

  1. We will be re-consulting the Disclosure and Barring Service to request that we be allowed to institute DBS checks for all academy staff. The intention of our Academy rules was always that children were not left there unattended. Because there was a plan for no unsupervised access to children, our request for standard DBS checks has on previous occasions been refused. However, in practice older children often drop in to the Academy, so we want to check all Academy crew members.

  2. Profound Decisions will seek to consult with an appropriate external, experienced professional to provide improved guidance on safety issues, risk and impact assessments. Our Conduct team should have access to additional expertise, advice, training and support that centres the people we want to protect.

  3. We’ve spoken about this in another post - we are currently undertaking a major review of all our conduct policies with a working group, aiming to shift the focus to provide better support for all participants who have been the victim of abuse. I will provide my full support to the team carrying out that work - but will have no role in implementing it and no involvement in any current or future conduct cases. The new rules will give us an opportunity to try and do better than we have done in the past. At this point the best way for me to restore faith in the team that I have asked to carry out this difficult job is to step back, and to provide the conduct team with access to the right support and expertise.

We ask that all feedback and responses on this sensitive issue be emailed to conduct@profounddecisions.co.uk or matt@profounddecisions.co.uk rather than commenting below where possible, so that they can reach the appropriate people and we can read and respond properly.

Matt Pennington
Profound Decisions

This statement was originally posted here: https://www.facebook.com/empire.lrp/posts/3006287432800550

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