Sex abuse professor Kevin O’Gorman spared prison

Former Heriot-Watt and Strathclyde academic ordered to complete unpaid work and overnight curfew

September 27, 2019
Sheriff Court of Glasgow
Source: iStock

A professor who sexually abused eight male students has been spared jail.

Kevin O’Gorman committed the offences while working at Strathclyde and Heriot-Watt universities between 2006 and 2014. He was convicted on 14 counts, including sexual assault and sending sexually inappropriate messages, following a trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

At a hearing on 26 September O’Gorman was sentenced to a community payback order including 240 hours of unpaid work and three years of supervision. He will be electronically tagged, under a curfew which will bar him from leaving his home in East Dunbartonshire between 7pm and 7am for six months.

The trial had heard how O’Gorman ordered one student to remove his trousers and bend over a bed. O’Gorman then whipped him at least 10 times. Another victim was made to stand in a corner and beat himself on the bottom with a wooden spoon, while another was made to take his trousers off during a video call as “punishment” for not working hard enough, The Daily Record reported.

Niall McCluskey, defending, urged the court to spare O’Gorman jail and read several references praising him from ex-colleagues at Strathclyde and Heriot-Watt.

The references described him as a “remarkable academic” who had a “genuine concern for the pastoral care of students”, The Scotsman reported.

O’Gorman maintained that his actions did not have a sexual motive, the court heard. But Sheriff Alistair Noble told O’Gorman that he had “sought to gratify your own sexual interests” while tutoring students.

Both Heriot-Watt and Strathclyde have appointed QCs to investigate their handling of the case. The professor of management worked at 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.

O’Gorman was suspended and subsequently dismissed by Heriot-Watt in 2017 after complaints from staff, which led to the police investigation.

Former colleagues of O’Gorman at both institutions told Times Higher Education previously that O’Gorman could have been stopped sooner, and that they wanted the investigations to reveal exactly what senior management knew and when.

One of O’Gorman’s victims, Fraser Blevins, who has waived his right to anonymity, told local media that the professor was “nothing short of a monster who preyed on innocent people”.

“I am disappointed it wasn’t a custodial sentence,” Mr Blevins said. “It’s difficult to imagine that man being free in the comfort of his own home. I hope the community service at least addresses his ego as he has never appeared to show any remorse.”

chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com

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