Heriot-Watt University has welcomed the publication of an independent review into the institution’s systems and processes. The review was conducted by the respected senior lawyer Morag Ross QC and the University has accepted her recommendations in full.
The Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Richard A. Williams, commissioned the report in November 2019.
It followed the dismissal of Dr Kevin O’Gorman in 2017 after complaints raised by academic staff about his inappropriate behaviour were passed to police by the University. The criminal investigation that followed covered events dating back to 2006 and included Dr O’Gorman’s previous position at the University of Strathclyde. He was convicted at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on 14 charges of sexual offences committed against students and placed on the sex offenders register in September last year.
Professor Williams said the independent report revealed how staff and students had been extensively manipulated by Dr O’Gorman, enabling him to breach their trust. He said “My thoughts are first and foremost with the students who were victims of Dr O’Gorman’s abusive behaviour and the staff who in different ways have been deeply affected by this case. I want to thank Morag Ross QC for her rigorous examination of our systems and processes. I am pleased she has confirmed appropriate action was taken swiftly as soon as formal complaints were raised. Her recommendations, which we are now implementing in full, will ensure we have the culture and systems in place to identify and address any early warning signs of similar manipulation or abuse in future.”
The review was conducted through an independent and confidential consultation by Morag Ross QC and provides a comprehensive examination of the systems and processes around Dr O’Gorman’s recruitment, the collation of complaints and concerns, and his dismissal.
The report finds no substantial evidence of serious failings by individuals or the processes used by Heriot-Watt at the time. Ten recommendations covering aspects of recruitment, complaints and working culture and relationships are being taken forward by the University Executive in consultation with the University’s student and staff communities.
The University remains committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment to all students, staff and visitors. Any reports of inappropriate conduct by anyone are treated with the utmost seriousness and all will be thoroughly investigated.