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By Ian Cheong
A breach of confidentiality rules earlier this term led to the investigation of a number of senior Oxford Union committee members, including a potential presidential candidate, it has emerged.
Details of discussions which took place while the Union’s governing body, Standing Committee, was meeting in private were passed on by one of the officials present.
Isabel Ernst, Union President, set out her intention to launch a disciplinary tribunal against ex-committee member Madeline Grant during a meeting of Standing Committee in 0th week.
Union rules allow meetings concerning disciplinary matters to be held ‘in camera’, with no observers and members present forbidden from passing on details of the discussion.
But it is understood that an email sent by Grant immediately after being summoned to her intermediate disciplinary committee (IDC) made it clear that somebody had discussed the private proceedings with her.
At the tribunal, which was composed of chair and ex-Returning Officer Katherine Sidders and two other ex-officers, Grant was questioned about who had informed her of the private discussions.
She told the tribunal that current Union Treasurer, Maria Rioumine, had made clear to her that Ernst intended to launch disciplinary action against her.
Rioumine is understood to be planning to run for Union presidency in this term’s elections.
Having heard the allegations by Grant, the panel adjourned for three days in order to investigate who had breached in camera confidentiality.
Rioumine denied to the tribunal any charge that she had broken Union rules.
The IDC concluded in its initial declaration that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with an investigation into who had passed on the confidential information.
A former Union official, who asked not to be named, told the tribunal that Ernst had disclosed in a private conversation that Rioumine had admitted breaching in camera confidentiality to her.
But Ernst denied that she had received any confession, telling the panel that the former official was mistaken in their recollection of the conversation.
When asked about the investigation, Ernst said: “In the course of the Ernst v. Grant IDC, a potential breach of the Union’s strict ‘in camera’ rules was brought to the attention of the panel however no individuals were named.”
She added: “There was no evidence to suggest that any of these people, or any others, had broken the Rules. Nobody was at any point in the proceedings considered to be a defendant in respect of this allegation.”