Section D4: Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Rules

PURPOSE OF THESE RULES

D4:1 The purpose of these rules is to ensure the safeguarding of vulnerable groups within the game, the welfare of these groups is paramount, and these rules shall be interpreted in a manner that is consistent with that purpose. Where a matter arises that is not otherwise provided for in these Rules, the RFL shall use its discretion to resolve the matter in such manner as it thinks fit bearing in mind the purpose of these Rules and provided that such resolution does not materially undermine the reliability of proceedings under these Rules or otherwise cause material injustice to anybody bound by these Rules.

JURISDICTION

D4:2 The RFL, including all constituent members, has adopted the RFL Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Policy as amended from time to time, the current version is set out in Section E3 below. All persons subject to the Operational Rules or otherwise under the jurisdiction of the RFL or a member of the RFL, for the avoidance of doubt including spectators, are deemed to have assented to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Policy and any Rugby League codes of ethics and/or conduct (currently RESPECT, Tackle It! and the Coach’s Code of Conduct) and as such are deemed to have undertaken to recognise and adhere to the principles and responsibilities embodied in them (as amended or replaced from time to time).

RFL OBLIGATIONS

D4:3 The RFL shall:

  1. Appoint a designated person to manage Safeguarding;
  2. Publish a Safeguarding Policy and a Safeguarding Plan;
  3. Appoint a Safeguarding Case Management Group;
  4. Manage the DBS process;
  5. Respond to any complaints and concerns which relate to Safeguarding.

MEMBER OR CLUB OBLIGATIONS

D4:4 Each Member, Club or Community Club, Community League or Community Organisation (each of the latter 3 as defined in the RFL Operational Rules Tiers 4 to 6 (Community Game)) (for the purpose of this Section D4 each a “Club”) must;

  1. Comply with the RFL Safeguarding Policy and take Reasonable Endeavours to ensure that all those subject to its jurisdiction including spectators and any charitable foundation with which it has direct or indirect links complies with the RFL Safeguarding Policy;
  2. Appoint a Club Welfare Officer or equivalent (e.g. Match Officials Welfare Officer) (if it runs a junior section or programme);
  3. Adopt a Safeguarding Policy;
  4. Ensure that it responds to any complaints or concerns which relate to Safeguarding and where required report such complaints or concerns to the RFL;
  5. Implement recommended recruitment policies and ensure that all relevant members or volunteers have been DBS checked;
  6. Carry out and report on internal disciplinary procedures when requested to do so by the RFL;
  7. Attend education sessions and supervise, monitor and report to the RFL (as required by the Safeguarding Policy);
  8. Implement a Safeguarding Plan if required to do so.

MISCONDUCT

D4:5 In this Section D4 of these Operational Rules the expression “Misconduct” shall mean:

  1. Any act, statement, conduct, omission or other matter which in the reasonable opinion of the Safeguarding Case Management Group harms a child or vulnerable adult, or poses or may pose a risk of harm to a child or vulnerable adult;
  2. Any one or more of the offences contained in the schedules of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000;
  3. Any other criminal offence which reasonably causes the RFL to believe that the person(s) accused of the offence poses or may pose a risk of harm to a child or children or a vulnerable adult;
  4. A disclosure from the Disclosure and Barring Service;
  5. A breach of the RFL Safeguarding Policy;
  6. Failure to comply with the Disclosure and Barring Service risk assessment procedure;
  7. Allowing, inciting or collaborating in a breach of the RFL Safeguarding Policy;
  8. Failure to comply with the decision or instructions of the SCMG or Operational Rules Tribunal.

PROCEDURES

D4:6 The procedures in this Section D4 will apply if the RFL receives any of the following:

  1. a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) disclosure;
  2. a complaint or concern about the behaviour of one or more persons or a club which may constitute abuse, poor practice or a breach of the Safeguarding Policy;
  3. a report from any Statutory Authority which may result or impact on the safety of any child or vulnerable adult; or
  4. a report of a criminal action or criminal investigation either before or after conviction in the courts and regardless of whether charges are pressed or a conviction obtained.

For the purpose of these Regulations, the RFL shall follow the procedures set out in this Section D4 and Section D1 above.

Any references in this Section D4 to ‘work with’ include but are not limited to where such work is provided in return for financial remuneration and where such work is provided on a volunteer basis.

DBS DISCLOSURE

D4:7 DBS Disclosures received by the RFL will be considered by a member of the Safeguarding Case Management Group (SCMG) and where there is a positive disclosure a member of the SCMG will carry out a Risk Assessment (RA) to decide whether the person is suitable to work with vulnerable groups.

Low Risk

If, following assessment, the risk is considered to be low the RFL will inform the person and the club that the RFL does not consider there is any reason why the person should not work unsupervised with children or vulnerable adults within the sport.

Medium Risk

If, following assessment, the risk is considered to be medium the disclosure will be referred to the SCMG. The SCMG may continue to make further enquiries which may include requesting further information, consulting with Statutory Agencies, interviewing the person and any other relevant enquiries. Following such enquiries the SCMG will then carry out a second RA. If following further investigation the RA is considered to be low then following approval from the SCMG the RFL will inform the person and the club that the RFL does not consider there is any reason why the person should not work unsupervised with children or vulnerable adults within the sport. If following the further investigation the RA is still considered to be medium then the SCMG will consider the case and decide whether the person be:

  1. allowed to work with vulnerable groups subject to such checks and balances as the SCMG thinks fit which may involve the person giving permission for the DBS disclosure to be discussed with the club concerned; or
  2. subjected to a Temporary Suspension Order (TSO) while further enquiries are carried out.

High Risk
If the initial RA is considered to be high risk the disclosure will be referred to the SCMG who will consider the RA and may implement a TSO while further enquiries (as set out above) are carried out.
Any enquiries carried out as a result of the risk being assessed as medium or high may be carried out by the SCMG or may be referred to the Compliance Investigators. The RFL may require permission to contact Statutory Agencies in order to complete its investigations.
A person subject to a TSO may appeal such TSO in accordance with D4.9 below.
Following the investigation a further RA will be carried out. If the RA is now considered Low or Medium (in a situation where an order that the person be allowed to work with vulnerable groups subject to appropriate checks and balances is appropriate) the process above will be followed. If as the RA is still considered Medium (in a situation where a TSO is appropriate) or High the subject of the TSO will be informed that the TSO will remain in place in which case the subject will have a further 28 days in which to lodge a right of appeal to the RFL. Any such appeal will be heard by the Operational Rules Tribunal acting in accordance with the appeal procedures set out in Section D1 above.

COMPLAINT OR CONCERN

D4:8 If the RFL is made aware of a complaint, allegation or concern (“the Matter”) the following procedure will be followed:

The Matter will be referred to the SCMG who will decide what action to take as follows:

  1. Decide there is no risk and reject the Matter and inform the complainant of their decision;
  2. Decide that the Club or League concerned should deal with the Matter as an internal matter in which case the Club or League shall keep the SCMG informed of its decision and any action taken;
  3. Decide to instruct any relevant persons carrying out Regulated Activity (as defined by the DBS) to obtain a RFL DBS Enhanced Disclosure;
  4. Instruct the person or Club in relation to whom the Matter has been raised to undertake education and/or training;
  5. Meet with the Club to review the Club’s Safeguarding Policy and Procedures and recommend a plan which the Club will be required to implement;
  6. Ask the person or Club in relation to whom the Matter has been raised if they admit that there has been a breach of Safeguarding Policy;
  7. Decide to carry out an initial investigation of the Matter and refer it to a Compliance Investigator for an initial report;
  8. Decide to inform the person or club in relation to whom the Matter has been has been raised and order a full investigation in which case the SCMG may decide to impose a TSO while the investigation is being carried out;
  9. Refer the matter to the Statutory Authorities.

In the case of b), c), d) or e) above the SCMG will monitor the person and/or Club to ensure that the instructions of the SCMG have been carried out, failure to do so constitutes Misconduct under these Rules.

Following an admission of a breach of Safeguarding Policy or an investigation the SGMG will consider the breach or the Compliance Investigator’s report and decide on the course of action to take which includes one or more of the following options:

  1. decide that there is no case to answer/no further action;
  2. decide that the person against whom the Matter was raised and/or other members of their club should attend further training within a specified time period;
  3. require an undertaking as to future conduct;
  4. set conditions on participation in the game including education and/or supervision;
  5. Meet with the Club to review the Club’s Safeguarding Policy and Procedures and recommend a plan which the Club will be required to implement
  6. make a finding of guilt and impose other option(s) above in which case the person or club has a right of appeal against the finding of guilt to the RFL Operational Rules Tribunal;
  7. decide that the case be referred to a hearing of the RFL Operational Rules Tribunal under Section D1 in which case a TSO may be imposed until the hearing.

ACTION OR INVESTIGATION BY STATUTORY AUTHORITIES

D4:9 If the RFL is made aware that a person is subject to criminal action or a criminal investigation or other statutory authority action or investigation the following procedure will be followed:
The matter will be referred to the SCMG who will decide what action to take as follows:

  1. Decide to monitor the situation;
  2. Decide to impose a TSO while the action or investigation proceedings are ongoing;
  3. Decide to inform the person or club who is subject to the action or investigation and order a RFL investigation by the RFL investigators in which case the SCMG may decide to impose a TSO while the investigation is being carried out;
  4. Decide to start an investigation by writing to the person who is subject to action or investigation but not commence the RFL investigation until such time as the police investigation/criminal proceedings/statutory authorities processes have been completed although the SCMG may decide to impose a TSO in the interim;
  5. Following the investigation the SCMG will consider the action and/or recommendation of the Police and/or Statutory Authorities and the Compliance Investigator’s report if appropriate and decide on the course of action to take which includes the following options:
    1. decide that there is no case to answer/no further action;
    2. decide that the person who was subject to the action or investigation and/or other members of their club should attend further training within a specified time period;
    3. require an undertaking as to future conduct;
    4. set conditions on participation in the game;
    5. make a finding of guilt and impose other option(s) above in which case the person or club has a right of appeal against the finding of guilt to the RFL Operational Rules Tribunal;
    6. decide that the case be referred to a hearing of the RFL Operational Rules Tribunal under Section D1 in which case a TSO may be imposed until the hearing.

SUSPENSION ORDERS & OTHER DIRECTIVES

D4:10 The RFL may impose suspension orders as follows:

Temporary Suspension Order
Temporary Suspension Orders will be made by the SCMG who shall have the power to order that the individual be suspended from playing in (or attending) Matches and all or any other Rugby League activity or any venue where Rugby League activity takes place for such period and on such terms and conditions as it thinks fit on a case by case basis. The subject of a TSO will be informed in writing and has the right to appeal to the RFL Operational Rules Tribunal, in accordance with the appeal procedures set out in Section D1 above, within 28 days of the TSO being imposed. Unless reversed or amended on appeal a TSO remains in effect until it is lifted by the SCMG or until a Permanent Suspension Order (PSO) is imposed.
A TSO may be imposed when the SCMG receives:

  1. Notification that an individual has been charged with an Offence; or
  2. Notification that an individual is or has been the subject of an investigation by the Police or another Statutory Authority relating to an Offence regardless of whether charges are pressed or a conviction obtained;
  3. Notification that a high or medium risk DBS disclosure has been received for the individual; or
  4. Any other information which causes the RFL reasonably to believe that a person poses or may pose a risk of harm to a child or children or vulnerable adult(s).

In reaching its determination as to whether a TSO should be made, the RFL shall give consideration, inter alia, to the following factors:

  1. Whether a child or vulnerable adult is or may be or children or vulnerable adults are or may be at risk of harm;
  2. Whether the matters or offence alleged are of a serious nature;
  3. Whether a TSO is necessary or desirable to allow the conduct of any investigation by the RFL or any other authority or body to proceed unimpeded.

No TSO shall be made so as to continue to apply beyond the date upon which any charge under the Operational Rules of the RFL or any Offence is the subject of a final and binding decision or is brought to an end.
Where a TSO is imposed on an individual, the RFL shall bring and conclude any proceedings under the Operational Rules of the RFL against the person accused as soon as reasonably practicable. However where this is not practicable a TSO may remain in place indefinitely subject to the right to appeal as detailed above.

Permanent Suspension Order (PSO)
Should the SCMG believe that a PSO is necessary then it must apply to the Operational Rules Tribunal outlining the reasons for its request. The proposed subject of the PSO will be forwarded a copy of the reasons and shall, subject to below, have the right to appear before the Operational Rules Tribunal under the procedures set out in D1 above.
PSOs will be imposed by the Operational Rules Tribunal who shall have the power to order that the individual be suspended from coaching, volunteering, spectating, playing in (or attending) Matches and all or any other Rugby League activity or any venue where Rugby League activity takes place for such period and on such terms and conditions as it thinks fit on a case by case basis.

The Operational Rules Tribunal shall be entitled to impose a PSO despite the proposed subject not being able to attend the hearing if in all the circumstances they consider it appropriate (for instance where the proposed subject is not able to attend due to being in prison).

An Operational Rules Tribunal may impose a PSO if it has reasonable grounds for believing that the proposed subject may post a significant risk to children or vulnerable adults.

When appropriate in imposing a PSO an Operational Rules Tribunal may give leave for the subject of the PSO to request a review at the end of such period of time as the Operational Rules Tribunal thinks fit. Where the subject of a PSO intends to carry out Regulated Activity (as defined by the DBS from time to time) the Operational Rules Tribunal may require the subject of the PSO to complete a DBS prior to hearing the review and may order the SCMG to carry out a Risk Assessment based on the information contained in such DBS and report such Risk Assessment to the Operational Rules Tribunal before the review hearing.

REFERRAL TO TRIBUNAL

D4:11 Where the SCMG decides to follow the course of action at D4:8(e)(iv) or believes there has been misconduct under D4 the matter may be referred to a Tribunal.
Tribunal Procedures
Tribunals (and appeals) will be held under the procedures set out in Section D1 of the Operational Rules save that a member of the SCMG may undertake the role of the Compliance Manager.

Sanctions

In addition, or in place of the, sanctions set out in Section D1 the Operational Rules Tribunal may also:

  1. decide that the person against whom the complaint was made and/or other members of their club should attend further training within a specified time period;
  2. impose conditions or limitations on participation in the game;
  3. impose a period suspension;
  4. impose a Permanent Suspension Order (which may or may not include review dates) as set out above.