Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie
AN EMPLOYEE OF the National Museum of Ireland who is challenging his suspension had “an obsession with tall women with long legs”, the High Court has heard.
Dr Andrew Halpin has sued his employer over his formal suspension from his position as Assistant Keeper of Irish Antiquities following media reports in February 2017.
Dr Halpin, who claims his suspension is unwarranted and unlawful, was the subject of complaints of sexual harassment from female colleagues at the museum in 2016 and 2006.
He was informed he was being suspended to protect individuals at risk based on an alleged fear that due to the stress of adverse publicity there might be a repeat of conduct previously complained of.
Dr Halpin says any claim that others are at risk are false and in proceedings against the museum seeks various declarations from the High Court which if granted will allow him to return to work.
The claims are denied.
The High Court today heard Dr Halpin was sanctioned following an investigation into an allegation of by a female colleague in 2006. He did not dispute the complaint and was sanctioned by the museum.
Another complaint of sexual harassment was made in 2016, which Dr Halpin, with an address at Yellowmeadows Avenue, Clondalkin, Dublin disputed.
A report into that allegation concluded there was no conclusive evidence to support the claim of sexual harassment.
However as part of that investigation 700 pictures of “scantily clad” tall female fashion models were downloaded onto work computers by Dr Halpin were found.
The images were not pornographic, explicit or unlawful, however some of them had been altered by Dr Halpin to make the women look taller.
Oisin Quinn SC for the museum said it appeared that Dr Halpin had “an obsession with tall women with long legs”. Dr Halpin cited stress as a reason for downloading this material.
Following the 2016 matter he was told by the museum not to have any physical contact with colleagues bar a handshake, not to work alone with female colleagues, and his internet access was limited. He also underwent counselling.
The case came before the High Court by way of a pre-trial application for the discovery of certain material.
Oisin Quinn SC for the museum said that it appeared that Dr Halpin had “an obsession with” and had downloaded the material “to indulge his fantasies” about tall women with long legs.
The museum seeks an order requiring Dr Halpin to give them certain medical records, including ones concerning his mental health, in advance of the trial.
Mr Quinn said the records are both “relevant and necessary” for its defence to the action.
Counsel said as Dr Halpin seeks declarations that the museum is not entitled to require Dr Halpin to undergo either a psychiatric or neuropsychological assessment it would be “absurd” that he did not provide the medical information sought by the defendant.
Frank Callanan SC for Dr Halpin rejected the arguments advanced on behalf of the museum and said the records sought were not relevant.
Counsel said the application was “fishing” by the museum.
It was an attempt find something it didn’t know about at time it suspended Dr Halpin to see if that decision was right.
Counsel said his suspension was done to satisfy the media and create a distraction from other management issues concerning the museum.
There was no medical or lawful justification for his client to undergo medical assessments sought by the defendant, counsel said, adding the application was “punishment for suing the museum”, and “a PR stunt.”
Dr Halpin was suspended after the previous matters had been dealt with, counsel said adding that his client had been caused intense upset and had been degraded and humiliated.
In reply Mr Quinn rejected claims made on Dr Halpin’s behalf.
Following the conclusion of submission from both sides Ms Justice Dierdre Murphy reserved judgment on the application. The Judge said she wanted time to consider the issues raised and would try to give her decision “as soon as possible.”