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Sat, 13 July 2024

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Dominic Raab Bullying Report Finds He Acted In An "Intimidating Manner" As Justice Secretary

Dominic Raab has resigned from Cabinet (Alamy)

4 min read

The inquiry into whether Dominic Raab bullied civil service staff has found cases where he had acted in an "intimidating manner", although concludes he did “not intend” to upset or humiliate staff.

The former justice secretary and deputy prime minister has now resigned from Cabinet following the investigation’s findings. 

A report by lawyer Adam Tolley KC was commissioned last November after eight formal complaints were made about Raab’s interactions with civil servants, dating back to his time as Foreign Secretary and Brexit Secretary. 

The report found three instances since September 2021 where Raab’s feedback to senior civil servants was overly critical – particularly during his time as justice secretary – including that one  submission on parole reform was “utterly useless” and “woeful”.

Raab has denied that he made these particular comments. 

Tolley wrote in the report said: “Overall, I conclude that the DPM’s conduct during the MoJ Period was on some occasions ‘abrasive’, in the sense of a personal style which is and feels intimidating or insulting to the individual, but is not intended to be so. 

“His conduct was not, however, ‘abusive’, in the sense of behaviour which is intended and specifically targeted.”

In a letter responding to Raab's resignation, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he accepted his resignation with "great sadness" but that ministers were required to uphold the highest of standards.

"You had rightly undertaken to resign if the report made any finding of bullying whatsoever," Sunak said. 

"But it is clear that there have been shortcomings in the historic process that have negatively affected everyone involved.

"We should learn from this how to better handle such matters in future."

Relating to complaints from civil servants in the MoJ, Tolley said in the report that they “deserve credit” for coming forward. 

“It cannot have been easy for them to do so and their motivation was to stand up for more senior colleagues whose experiences they had observed at one remove,” he wrote. 

“Having interviewed almost all of the individuals closely involved, I find that they are sincere and committed civil servants, with no ulterior agenda.”

The report noted a significant shift in Raab's manner with staff following his call for an inquiry into the allegations. 

"There was a broad consensus amongst interviewees that, whatever might have been said about the DPM’s conduct prior to the investigation, there was little or no valid ground for criticism of the DPM’s conduct once the investigation was announced," Tolley wrote. 

"Some of the individuals concerned with the MoJ Additional Complaints acknowledged that if the DPM had behaved previously as he has more recently behaved, there would have been no valid grounds for complaint."

Other findings in the report included that the experience of civil servants working under Raab "involved a significant adverse impact on their health" and that his behaviour involved "an abuse or misuse of power in a way that undermines or humiliates".

In his resignation letter, Raab said he believed that the findings of the report were "flawed", and that "in setting the threshold for bullying so low, this inquiry has set a dangerous precedent".

"I am genuinely sorry for any unintended stress or offence that any officials felt, as a result of the pace, standards and challenge that I brought to the Ministry of Justice,” he said. 

“That is, however, what the public expect of Ministers working on their behalf. In setting the threshold for bullying so low, this inquiry has set a dangerous precedent.

“It will encourage spurious complaints against Ministers, and have a chilling effect on those driving change on behalf of your government – and ultimately the British people.”

According to PoliticsHome's sister publication Civil Service World, a number of civil servants are "appalled" by Raab's behaviour and the claims made in his resignation letter. 

One described the letter as "gaslighting in his last gasps", while another called it "the world's most bullying resignation letter".

"I'm appalled by his suggestion that 'only two' incidents being upheld wasn't a big deal," one civil servant told CSW

Some allegations, including that Raab had asked too many questions, curtailed interventions in meetings, or that staff were intimidated or offended by his body language, were dismissed.

The report outlined that any questions related to the Ministerial Code are a matter for the Prime Minister.

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