Heriot-Watt names QC to review appointment of sex abuse professor

Kevin O’Gorman due to be sentenced on 18 September

September 6, 2019

Heriot-Watt University has appointed a QC to review the chain of events that led it to appoint a professor subsequently found guilty of sex offences against students.

Kevin O’Gorman, a former director of internationalisation at Heriot-Watt, was convicted last month of 14 counts of assault against eight young men, committed between 2006 and 2017. The offences were committed both prior to and during his employment at the university.

The professor of management worked at the University of Strathclyde from 2005 until he was suspended in 2011 after a complaint was made against him. He left the following year, apparently with references and a pay-off, and no report was passed to the police, Times Higher Education reported last month.

Former colleagues of O’Gorman at both institutions told THE that they wanted investigations to reveal exactly what senior management knew and when.

Heriot-Watt said on 6 September that Morag Ross QC is to “explore whether lessons can be learned after the university received positive references” for O’Gorman during the recruitment process.

Richard Williams, Heriot-Watt principal and vice-chancellor, said: “While it was our own disclosure procedures that caught Kevin O’Gorman and led to criminal proceedings, this review aims to understand how it was that we employed him in the first place.

“Every decision we have made has been to support victims, students and staff, and we will continue to support them until we are satisfied no more can be done. We will not rest in the pursuit of more stringent processes that protect students and staff.”

Professor Williams added: “We want everybody at Heriot Watt to feel entirely satisfied that we are transparent, available and trusting of anyone who wishes to raise concerns in private.”

Heriot-Watt said that its review will run at the same time as a separate investigation at Strathclyde. Heriot-Watt “will make its findings available to that investigation, and to the public,” the university said.

john.morgan@timeshighereducation.com

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