Lecturer guilty of harassing female student

October 16, 2008

A law lecturer at Southampton Solent University has been found guilty of harassing a female student after she ended their relationship.

Paul Kavanagh sent the 31-year-old criminology student emails, text messages and letters after he was told by police to leave her alone.

Last week, Bournemouth Magistrates' Court ordered him to serve a 12-month community order and perform 200 hours of community work and made him the subject of a restraining order preventing him from contacting the student.

He was also ordered to pay £625 in court costs.

The lecturer's lawyer had argued that his client was acting only to enable them both to be comfortable in the university domain, where they were in close proximity.

The Daily Echo quoted the lawyer, Roger Peach, as saying: "(Kavanagh) is an intelligent man, and he has learnt a tough lesson. He wants to get on with his life."

A spokesperson for Southampton Solent said: "The university has acted scrupulously to meet its obligations to both parties throughout this case. Paul Kavanagh has been suspended from teaching duties while the university carries out a review."

Mr Kavanagh neither taught nor supervised the student concerned.

Like many higher education institutions, Southampton Solent has a "personal relationships at work policy" covering staff-student relationships, the spokesperson added. The policy notes that it is "not intended that personal relationships should be discouraged" but rather that conflicts of interest should be declared.

"The university's policies and procedures aim to foster a good working environment for both students and staff," the spokesperson said.

Other universities take a more proscriptive approach.

The University of Kent's policy notes that it "does not wish to legislate against personal relationships between staff and students" but that "because of the risks to the reputation of staff, and the unequal power relationship between staff and students, it is inadvisable for a teacher to pursue a personal relationship or make any sexual approach to a student he or she is currently teaching."

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

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