Whistleblowers: Staffordshire accused of bias in investigation

June 28, 2002

Lawyers acting for a man with mental health problems who has complained about the conduct of research he took part in at Staffordshire University have expressed "significant concerns" about the fairness of the university's investigation into the affair.

Fisher Meredith, which is acting for a research volunteer who claims he was used as a case study without proper ethical approval or medical clearance, has written to the university raising concerns about a briefing the university gave to The THES . The university said that the volunteer, who claims his mental health problems were exacerbated after he was used unethically as a case study into workplace bullying, had been in trouble with police for harassing the researcher who used him in her work. The law firm challenges the account.

Staffordshire said the volunteer had received a caution from the police "in respect of his harassment" of the researcher, a postgraduate student. "The university has been told by the police that he had been charged with the criminal offence of harassment of her".

This week, solicitor Eleanor Wright of Fisher Meredith said: "I can confirm that my client has neither been cautioned nor charged by the police. I assume this comment was intended to influence [ The THES 's] coverage of the issue, and it is a significant contrast to the protective attitude taken by the university in relation to the rights of confidentiality of the postgraduate student whose research gave rise to the complaint. Because of this, we have significant concerns as to whether the university can be seen to be unbiased in dealing with the complaint."

When asked to comment on concerns about the fairness of the investigation, and on the veracity of its statements about the complainant, a spokesman for the university said: "Staffordshire University has fully cooperated with The THES with its inquiries regarding this matter. The university has nothing to add to the information it has already supplied to The THES ."

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