Police botched TWO investigations into woman’s claims she was raped by recruitment agency boss as employment tribunal finds he did sexually assault her after drunken work night out
- Victim was ‘drunk’ and ‘unsteady’ when she was ‘taken to hotel room and raped’
- Unnamed company had a sexualised and alcohol-fuelled culture, tribunal heard
- Staff drank and had sex in head office and were gifted lap dances at Christmas
- Tribunal in south London ruled by majority that worker was sexually assaulted
- Another hearing will be held to determine how much compensation she is paid
An employment tribunal has ruled that the CEO of a recruitment agency ‘raped’ a female employee in a hotel room after a drunken work night out – after two ‘poor’ police investigations were unable to bring charges.
The victim, referred to as Ms M, had joined the company in a senior role a year beforehand and was ‘drunk’ and ‘unsteady on her feet’ when she went to the hotel with her ‘robust and temperamental’ boss, who took her to her room and assaulted her, the panel heard.
The woman, who could only ‘partially remember’ the attack, reported it to police two months later.
But despite two investigations, which the tribunal deemed to be ‘poor’ with a ‘lack of good independent evidence’, the matter did not result in criminal charges.
The allegations were strenuously denied by the CEO, known only as Mr T, who claimed no sexual contact had taken place between the two and that he had been in her room for little more than 10 minutes.
But the employment tribunal disagreed, ruling by majority that on the balance of probabilities the victim had indeed been assaulted. She will now receive compensation.
The victim, referred to as Ms M, had joined the company in a senior role a year beforehand and was ‘drunk’ and ‘unsteady on her feet’ when she went to the hotel with her ‘robust and temperamental’ boss, who took her to her room and assaulted her, the panel heard (file photo)
The panel heard how the company had a ‘work hard, play hard’ culture where alcohol and sexualised conversations were tolerated and occasionally ‘positively encouraged’ by the boss.
Staff once walked in on a couple having sex during a work do at head office, the tribunal was told, while boozy nights out would see an award ceremony for ‘shots and slut drops’ – with one member of staff attempting to drink 20 shots in one hour.
The CEO, referred to as Mr T, would also gift employees with lap dances at Christmas while staff ‘regularly’ drank in the head office, the tribunal held remotely in Croydon, south London heard.
The tribunal noted ‘there were very few boundaries in place’ in the office, with the CEO allegedly having an affair with an employee who was almost 30 years his junior.
The CEO was described to the panel as a ‘capricious’ and ‘robust’ manager who would shower employees with lavish, designer gifts for good work but would not ‘pat workers on the back for doing the minimum level’.
The woman was under a six month probation and the view had been taken that she was underperforming, the panel heard.
The tribunal were told she felt insecure at work and unsure whether her boss ‘liked her or wanted to keep her’ with a ‘hire and fire culture’ being typical in the recruitment industry.
On the day of the incident, the woman went to have drinks with the CEO and colleagues to discuss her performance and probationary period, the panel heard.
While ‘drunk’, she was then taken to her hotel room by her boss who left some time later, the tribunal heard.
The panel heard conflicting evidence from her and her boss on what happened and analysed timelines provided by both for that night before ruling this had provided ‘ample possible time for the alleged attack to take place’ in the room.
The tribunal also noted the CEO failed to produce emails he might have sent during the ‘crucial time’ when he says he was in a car on the way home.
The south London tribunal in Croydon (pictured) noted ‘there were very few boundaries in place’ in the office, with the CEO allegedly having an affair with an employee who was almost 30 years his junior.
The panel said: ‘His suggestion that such evidence exists which would absolve him, suggests that he is both not particularly concerned by the need to explain himself in the face of such serious allegations and an easy willingness to allude to the existence of evidence in the hope or with the assumption that we will believe him without him actually producing that seemingly crucial exculpatory evidence.’
Later that month Ms M went off sick and subsequently resigned. A grievance was filed and she reported the assault to the police.
The CEO denied at the tribunal that the assault took place, instead arguing that he just dropped off her bag, and denied that the office had a culture of debauchery.
However, the panel – headed by employment judge Emma Kate Webster – concluded: ‘[The CEO’s] position regarding the culture of the organisation has been utterly implausible.
‘Despite all the evidence to the contrary, he has stated that it was not an organisation where much drinking took place or where sexual relations between staff were anything more than rumour.
‘This is clearly not the case and to take such a stance has undermined our ability to trust him in relation to other matters.
‘We find that the backdrop of a culture and organisation almost without any appropriate boundaries means that him overstepping those boundaries was more likely, particularly in light of him denying that such a culture existed at all.
‘This would have been harder to believe if the culture had been one of formality and strict guidelines as opposed to one where lap dances were paid for at Christmas parties, affairs between staff were common and alcohol regularly consumed to excess in the office.’
Although it could not reach a consensus, the majority of the panel concluded the alleged sexual assault had happened, although they said their deliberations had been hampered by two ‘poor’ police investigations.
It said: ‘The woman has been consistent in stating that something happened that night. We suspect that she was not sure what to call that ‘something’ for some time thereafter.
The CEO denied at the tribunal that the assault took place, instead arguing that he just dropped off her bag, and denied that the office had a culture of debauchery (file photo)
‘She did not necessarily immediately know that it was rape because she only partially remembered it.
‘She was embarrassed by what had happened and was perhaps unaware as to whether she initially consented or not – though of course we heard no evidence on this point and we are fully aware of the fact she was so drunk she was unlikely to be able to consent.
‘We are not making findings of fact on this point, merely making observations and they are largely irrelevant in light of the respondent’s blanket denial that anything happened at all.
‘We stress that we have made our decision and all our findings of fact on the balance of probabilities and based on the evidence which we were provided with; little of which was actually determinative of whether the alleged attack took place or not.
‘We were only able to reach a majority decision despite three days of very careful deliberation. Our ability to reach a decision was severely hampered by the lack of any good independent evidence.
‘This is particularly troubling given there have been two police investigations into the matter.
‘The police investigation and report into this matter was poor. The time line of when the police spoke to people appears to show huge gaps between the police becoming aware of facts and interviewing the relevant witnesses.
‘They seem to have done very little to track witnesses down. They did not ask for or test the only piece of clothing that could have had DNA evidence on it for over a year.
‘We conclude, on balance of probabilities, that [the CEO] had sex with the woman when she did not consent or did not have the capacity to consent.’
The tribunal upheld by majority the claim for sexual harassment and because she resigned as a result of the assault which was ‘because of her sex’, her sex discrimination claim also succeeded.
A hearing will now be held to determine how much compensation she is paid.
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