A letter sent by one of the top solicitors in Northern Ireland advised the former Executive of NI21 against bringing in an outside agency, such as Carecall to investigate allegations against the party leader Basil Mc Crea, Vixens can exclusively reveal tonight.
The letter, which Vixens has seen, was sent on 15th May, one day after the executive collective were informed of information that a complainant had spoken with the Deputy Leader and the media.
Vixens can also reveal that the NI21 Executive had not formally received any allegations, and as such, were advised by their solicitor not to act until they did so. The solicitor also offered advice should the executive receive any such complaints.
Deputy Leader John McCallister was aware of the legal letter, and decided himself to engage the services of Carecall, against the majority of the Executive – and the legal advice at that time, the party has moved to detail. It is the matter of this engagement, which has caused confusion amongst party members in recent days.
Mr McCallister claimed in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph at the weekend that the chair of NI21, Jayne Howson had stopped the Carecall investigation. “The report was only partially complete when it was called off. I would welcome the process to continue, but it is not within my power to do that. The only one who holds that power is Jane Howson, who was appointed chair by Basil McCrea. Apparently, Carecall received legal advice to call the investigation off because they needed the permission from Jane. Jane withheld this permission, and so the report cannot go ahead. ”
A member of the new interim executive who spoke to Vixens yesterday, denied that Ms Howson had stopped such a report. We were unable to reach Ms Howson at the time of writing.
Vixens has also been contacted by a number of people within the party who confirmed that John McCallister was informed should he wish to engage the services of Carecall that would be “a personal decision, and his right”. Mr McCallister cited at the time that he had a “duty to staff, members and supporters”. We tried tweeting Mr McCallister yesterday to initiate some questions to him, however he did not answer our initial question.
The PSNI confirmed yesterday that no complaints in relation to Basil Mc Crea had been received. Mr Mc Crea has strongly denied the allegations – one of which is rumoured to be of sexual impropriety, in a number of interviews with the BBC and UTV.
A new interim executive was appointed, following resignations by the previous after the story was played out in the media – and while Basil Mc Crea, and John McCallister now had detail of the substance of the allegations, the party executive did not.
The new NI21 executive have stated tonight to Vixens “Neither the NI21 executive nor party commissioned this work by Carecall, therefore, contrary to Mr McCallister’s statement, we do not have the power to stop it. Mr McCallister initiated the investigation, therefore all matters to do with the content of the report and interviews have been discussed only with him and not with the executive.
The executive have sought and continue to seek, proper legal advice on how to proceed, but would also encourage any member of staff who has a genuine complaint to make about his or her treatment should do so using the proper procedures outlined in their contracts. We understand Mr McCrea is initiating separate legal action.”