Complaints procedures

Royal Society of New Zealand's procedures for handling complaints

These Rules are made by the Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand (the Society) on 24 November 2016 under section 32 of the Royal Society of New Zealand Act 1997.

1. Title

These Rules shall be known as the “Complaints Procedures”.

2. Commencement and applicability

2.1   These Rules come into force on 1 December 2016.

2.2   These Rules give effect to section 18 of the Act.

2.3   Any complaint received after the commencement date shall be determined according to the procedures set out in these Rules, even if the events to which the complaint refers pre-date the commencement date.

2.4   Matters which commenced to be processed under earlier versions of these Rules shall be determined in accordance with the Rules in place at the time of receipt of the complaint.

3. Definitions

In these Rules unless the context otherwise requires-

  • Academy Executive Committee means the Academy Executive Committee constituted under section 37 of the Act;
  • Act means the Royal Society of New Zealand Act 1997;
  • Chair means the Chair of the Academy Executive Committee;
  • Chief Executive means the Chief Executive Officer of the Society;
  • Code means the Royal Society of New Zealand Code of Professional Standards and Ethics issued under section 34 of the Act, as adopted by resolution of the Council, and includes any amendments to the Code issued to replace it;
  • complaint means a complaint made under Rule 4.1
  • Complaint Determination Committee or Committee means a committee appointed under Rule 7.1.
  • Council means the Council of the Society constituted under section 20 of the Act
  • Initial Investigation Panel or Panel means a panel appointed under Rule 6.
  • material conflict of interest means, in relation to any matter, a financial or other interest of a person that is likely to affect the person’s judgement in relation to the matter
  • Member means a Member of the Royal Society of New Zealand in accordance with sections 9 to 19 of the Act. Section 9 of the Act provides that Membership of the Society consists of the following:

a. Fellows:

b. Ordinary Members (known as Professional Members):

c. Companions:

d. Constituent Organisations:

e. Regional Constituent Organisations:

f. Affiliate Organisations that are Members in accordance with section 15(2) of the Act:

g. Honorary Members:

h. Honorary Fellows.

  • notify means to send a written notice (by post, email, fax, or other similar means of communication) to the last known address of the person concerned
  • respondent means the Member complained about or into whose conduct the Society has initiated an inquiry;
  • Society means the Royal Society of New Zealand continued by section 3 of the Act

4. How to complain about a Member

4.1   Any person may make a complaint to the Society alleging that there has been a breach by a Member of one of more of the professionalism and ethical obligation, membership obligation or good character obligation set out in General Rule 2.8.

4.2   To be valid a complaint must contain:

a. The name and contacts details of the complainant;

b. The name of the Member against whom the complaint is made;

c. The nature of the alleged breach, including identifying those obligations the complainant considers to be breached, and if part or all of the alleged breach is of the professionalism and ethics obligation, the specific clauses of the Code alleged to be breached; and

d. All information that the complainant considers relevant to the complaint.

4.3   Should the Society receive an intended complaint that, in the opinion of the Chief Executive, does not contain sufficient information to be valid, or is unsatisfactory in its form the Chief Executive shall request that information or the revision of the form of the complaint, and if, after thirty (30) days the information is not received or the complaint not put into satisfactory form, the Chief Executive shall deem the complaint to have lapsed.

4.4   The Chief Executive may explore with the complainant, the possibility of the complaint being better resolved by conciliation, mediation, arbitration, or another dispute resolution process. If a complainant is amenable to attempting resolution in such a manner, the Chief Executive may delay taking further steps under these Rules whilst he or she is satisfied that there is a reasonable chance of resolution. If the Chief Executive is satisfied that resolution has been achieved, he or she may deem the complaint to have lapsed.

5. Society may initiate enquiry

5.1   The Council may initiate an enquiry if it has reason to suspect that a Member may have breached the obligations on that Member, or supplied false or misleading information for the purpose of becoming a Member.

5.2   The Council may delegate the power to initiate an enquiry.

5.3   If Rule 5.1 applies, the Society may —

a. Carry out an investigation of the matter in accordance with these Rules as if it were a complaint; or

b. If a complaint on that matter has already been made, continue to inquire into the matter even if the complaint is subsequently withdrawn.

6. Initial investigation of the complaint

6.1   The Initial Investigation Panel shall be comprised of two or three Fellows or Companions of the Society, selected by the Chair of the Academy Executive Committee. In the event that a member of the Panel is temporarily not available, the Chair shall, to deal with a specific complaint, appoint a substitute who shall be a Fellow or a Companion of the Society. To deal with a specific complaint, the Chair may supplement the Panel with a further member, who shall be a Fellow or a Companion of the Society.

6.2   On receipt of a valid complaint under Rule 4, or on commencement of an enquiry under Rule 5, the Chief Executive must open a file on the complaint and notify the Member complained about (the “respondent”) of the nature of the complaint, and the membership of the Panel.

6.3   The Panel may invite the respondent to provide any written information that he or she considers relevant to the complaint, and must allow a reasonable period not exceeding thirty (30) days for the respondent to supply such information.

6.4   The Panel shall review the complaint and any information received from the respondent under Rule 6.3 and may decide no further action will be taken on the complaint if the Panel considers that, having regard to all the circumstances of the case further action is unnecessary or inappropriate, including by reason of:

a. there is insufficient evidence to establish that a breach has occurred or may have occurred: or

b. any breach, alleged or proven, is insufficiently grave to warrant further pursuit, including by reference to a Complaint Determination Committee under section 7; or

c. the complaint is frivolous or vexatious or is not made in good faith: or

d. the person alleged to be aggrieved does not wish action to be taken or continued: or

e. an inquiry into the complaint is not practicable because the complainant has failed to provide information that would be needed for referral of the complaint to a Complaint Determination Committee: or

f. a hearing on the complaint is no longer practicable given the time elapsed since the matter giving rise to the complaint;

g. the subject matter of the complaint is not materially different to a previous complaint against the same respondent, which has already been heard by the Society; or

h. the complaint is not amenable to resolution by a Complaint Determination Committee, including by reason of its demanding the open-ended evaluation of contentious expert opinion or of contested scientific evidence amongst researchers and scholars.

6.5   Before making a decision on a complaint, the Panel may explore, with the complainant and respondent, the possibility of the matter which gave rise to the complaint being referred to conciliation, mediation, arbitration, or another dispute resolution process.

6.6   If a complaint is referred to a dispute resolution process under Rule 6.5 and the complainant and respondent fail to resolve the matter within sixty (60) working days of the referral, or within any other time period that the Panel thinks fit, the Panel must make a decision on the complaint.

6.7   The intended decision of the Panel as to whether further action should be taken on the complaint and the reasons for that decision shall be notified to both the respondent and the complainant. The complainant and the respondent shall be given the opportunity to make a written submission within thirty (30) days.

6.8   The Panel shall consider any submissions received under Rule 6.7 and shall finalise its decision.

6.9   If the Panel decision is that further action shall be taken on the complaint it must identify in its decision the obligations, and if applicable the clauses in the Code, which it considers may have been breached, and if those do not correspond to the obligations and clauses alleged to be breached in the complaint, state the reasons for the difference.

6.10   The decision and the reasons for it shall be notified to the Academy Executive Committee, Council, respondent and complainant by the Chief Executive.

6.11   Should the decision of the Panel be that no further action will be taken on the complaint, that decision is final and not subject to appeal.

7. Determination of the complaint

7.1   If it is decided that further action will be taken on the complaint, the Chair of the Academy Executive Committee shall establish a Complaint Determination Committee comprising:

a. a convenor who is a Fellow or Companion of the Society, but must neither be the Chair of the Academy Executive Committee nor a member of the Initial Investigation Panel; and

b. one or two other members who must be Fellows, Companions, Professional Members or Associate Members of the Society but must neither be the Chair of the Academy Executive Committee nor a member of the Initial Investigation Panel; and

c. one or two members who are not Members of the Society but who are considered to bring a perspective representative of the public interest.

7.2   The Committee must, before making its decision on a complaint-

a. advise the complainant and the respondent of the process that the Committee intends to follow; and

b. provide the complainant with an opportunity to put all information about the complaint before the Committee; and

c. provide the complaint and all material relating to the complaint to the respondent (subject to confidentiality considerations in exceptional cases); and

d. give the respondent at least fifteen (15) working days to make submissions in writing or orally to the Committee; and

e. provide any material that the complainant has not had an opportunity to address to the complainant, and provide the complainant with an opportunity to respond.

7.3   In setting its process under Rule 7.2(a) the Committee may do any of the following:

a. make, or appoint a person to make, any enquiries it considers necessary:

b. engage counsel, who may be present at a hearing of the Committee, to advise the Committee on matters of law, procedure, and evidence:

c. request the respondent or the complainant or both to provide to the Committee, within a specified period of not less than 15 working days that the Committee thinks fit, any documents, things, or information that are in the possession or control of the person and that are relevant to the investigation:

d. take copies of any documents provided to it:

e. request that the respondent or the complainant appear before the Committee, at that person’s own cost, on no less than 15 working days’ notice:

f. receive any evidence it thinks fit:

g. request a person giving evidence to verify a statement by statutory declaration:

h. provide information to assist the complainant and the respondent to obtain counsel or other advocacy assistance:

i. treat a complaint as having been withdrawn if, in the opinion of the Committee, sufficient information has not been provided by the complainant within a reasonable time to allow a proper investigation to take place.

7.4   The Committee may dismiss the complaint only if any one (or more) of the grounds set out in Rule 6.4(b) to (h) apply, or if, in the opinion of the Committee a breach has not been established in respect of any of the obligations, and if applicable clauses of the Code, identified in the decision of the Panel under Rule 6.9.

7.5   The intended decision of the Committee on whether to dismiss or uphold the complaint and the reasons for that decision shall be notified to both the respondent and the complainant. The complainant and the respondent shall be given the opportunity to make a written submission within thirty (30) days.

7.6   The Committee shall consider any submissions received under Rule 7.5 and shall finalise its decision.

7.7   The Committee must make its final decision on a complaint in accordance with the following:

a. the Committee must make its decision on the complaint as soon as practicable, but may delay making the decision until the outcome of any legal proceedings that may affect its findings is known; and

b. if the Committee is not unanimous, the decision of the majority of the Committee is the decision of the Committee (but dissenting members may record dissenting views); and

c. the Committee must give reasons in writing for its decision, or the decision of the majority, as the case may be.

7.8   The decision and the reasons for it shall be notified to the Academy Executive Committee, Council, respondent and complainant by the Chief Executive.

7.9   The decision of the Committee is final and not subject to appeal.

8. Determination of penalties

8.1   Should the decision of the Committee be to uphold the complaint; the Committee shall prepare its intended decision on penalties which may include:

a. revoking the Member’s Membership of the Society, suspending the Member’s Membership for any period, or suspending the Member’s Membership until a condition requiring the respondent to undertake training or professional development is met; or

b. requiring the Member to relinquish, or be suspended for any period from, any official positions within the Society; or

c. reprimanding or admonishing the Member; and

d. notifying all Members of the Society of the name of the Member concerned and the circumstances of the breach; and

e. notifying any relevant professional body of the name of the Member concerned and the circumstances of the breach; and

f. publication of the name of the Member concerned and the circumstances of the breach.

8.2   In Rule 8.1 “publication” includes but is not limited to placing a notice in electronic newsletters or other written publications of the Society, placing a notice in the media, for example in a newspaper, or sending a notice to regulators or other parties within whose domain of activity the subject matter of the complaint falls.

8.3  Prior to making its intended decision on penalties, the Committee may explore with the respondent and the complainant whether restorative actions satisfactory to the complainant might be agreed between the respondent and the complainant.

8.4  In determining its intended decision on penalties the Committee must take into account the gravity of the breach, any relevant mitigating factors (including whether any restorative actions have occurred or will occur), the need for protection of the public interest, and the benefit of informing other scientists, technologists or humanities scholars of the breach, and it may also seek the advice of the Council.

8.5 The Committee, at its sole discretion, may allow the complainant and the respondent an opportunity, not exceeding fourteen (14) days, during which to make submissions relating to penalties.

8.6   The Committee must inform the Council of its intended decision on penalties, and must allow reasonable time for the Council to provide any advice prior to finalising its decision.

8.7   The Committee must make its decision on penalties (which may only be selected from those set out in Rule 8.1), in accordance with the following:

a. the Committee must make its decision as soon as practicable, but may delay making the decision until the outcome of any legal proceedings that may affect its findings is known; and

b. the Tribunal must have regard to any advice from the Council in regard to the intended penalties; and

c. if the Committee is not unanimous, the decision of the majority of the Committee is the decision of the Committee but dissenting members may record dissenting views; and

8.8   The Chief Executive must, as soon as practicable after receiving the decision of the Committee –

a. notify the Council, Academy Executive Committee, complainant and the respondent of the decision on penalties; and

b. implement any decision that requires action by the Society, but must allow at least twenty-eight (28) days after notifying the complainant and the respondent before implementing the penalties.

8.9   The decision of the Committee on penalties shall be final and not subject to appeal.

9. Publication for learning purposes

9.1   If, in the view of Academy Executive Committee or the Council, dissemination of a summary of the matters raised in the complaint and the decision of either the Initial Investigation Panel or the Complaint Determination Committee would be beneficial to other scientists, technologists or humanities scholars, the Academy Executive Committee or the Council, as is appropriate, may order that such a summary be published in such manner that does not identify the complainant or respondent. In such circumstances both the respondent and complainant shall be allowed a period, not exceeding fourteen (14) days to comment on the proposed text prior to publication.

10. Costs

10.1   The Society is not liable for any expense by way of travelling, engagement of counsel, calling of any witness or in any other matter connected with either a Panel’s or a Committee’s consideration of any matter under these Rules, whether incurred by a Member whose conduct is under investigation or by any person or persons who make a complaint.

11. Appointments, delegated functions and powers

11.1   The Council delegates to the Academy Executive Committee Chair the powers to implement these Rules, including, but not limited to: –

a. appointing a person to a role under these Rules; or

b. revoking a person’s appointment to a role under these Rules by written notice to him or her; or

c. reconstituting any body of persons appointed under these Rules by written notice.

11.2   The Council delegates to the Complaint Determination Committee the powers to decide penalties.

11.3   A person appointed under these Rules may resign the appointment by written notice to the Chief Executive.

11.4   Should a person appointed to a role by these Rules have a material conflict of interest, that person must resign from the role immediately the conflict is identified and the Chair of the Academy Executive Committee shall appoint a substitute person to undertake or continue the role.

11.5   In the event that the Chair of the Academy Executive Committee has a material conflict of interest, or is otherwise unavailable, the President of the Society shall appoint a person to undertake the role of the Chair in regard to those complaints for which the conflict exists, or for the period of time during which the Chair is unavailable.

11.6   All decisions made by a person in accordance with these Rules prior to resigning from a role may not be changed by the substitute.

12. General provisions about procedures

12.1   Every person or body appointed under these Rules must—

a. observe the rules of natural justice; and

b. give reasons for its decisions.

12.2   Except as otherwise provided in any other rules of the Society or these Rules, a person or body of persons appointed under these Rules may regulate the person’s or body’s own procedure as it thinks fit.