Thursday 21 February 2019

Museum seeks access to suspended staff member's mental health records

High Court defence: The National Museum of Ireland
High Court defence: The National Museum of Ireland
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The Court of Appeal has reserved judgment on whether the National Museum of Ireland should get access to the mental health records of a suspended member of staff who sexually harassed a former colleague.

Dr Andy Halpin was suspended from duty in February 2017 amid concerns about his behaviour.

The museum is seeking the records as part of its defence of a High Court action in which the assistant keeper of Irish antiquities wants his suspension lifted so he can return to work. Dr Halpin is also seeking damages for upset and distress.

The High Court ruled last March that Dr Halpin should produce the records, but it also said that these should be sealed and placed on the court file.

This means the museum would not get to inspect them before the trial and the court would decide to what use the documents may be put.

Appealing this ruling yesterday, Oisín Quinn SC, for the museum, said it wasn't "solid" and ran the risk of creating difficulties in relation to fairness and the management of the trial.

In a cross appeal, Frank Callanan SC, for Dr Halpin, said the discovery sought was neither relevant nor necessary.

The court was told Dr Halpin underwent counselling after a 2006 complaint of sexual harassment was upheld by an investigation conducted on behalf of the museum.

Another sexual harassment complaint was made in 2016, but the intern involved declined to give evidence to investigators.

Irish Independent

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