NUIG academic secures injunction halting investigation

Heinz Peter Nasheuer is facing claims he tried to ‘sabotage’ a colleague’s career

Students gather in the Quad at  NUI Galway. Photograph:  Patrick Heneghan/NUIG

Students gather in the Quad at NUI Galway. Photograph: Patrick Heneghan/NUIG

 

A senior academic at the National University of Ireland Galway has secured a High Court injunction halting what he says is a flawed investigation into claims he tried to “sabotage” a colleague’s career.

At the High Court on Friday Ms Justice Marie Baker ruled that Heinz Peter Nasheuer who is a professor of biochemistry at the university, was entitled to an injunction staying an investigation into alleged bullying until the full trial of the matter.

The judge said she was granting the order on the grounds the investigation was sufficiently flawed to require the court to stay the process.

The judge added it was in the interests of justice that the full trial of the action be heard as soon as possible.

Prof Nasheuer is one of nine people who are the subjects of complaints of alleged bullying made by a colleague at NUIG. He denies the allegations, which date back several years, against him.

The court heard the professor, who has worked with the college since 2003, was “completely shocked” when the allegations were first put to him by the university.

The bullying allegations are quite serious and the complainant had accused the professor of trying “to sabotage” that person’s career.

Arising out of the complaints the Labour Court appointed by former trade unionist Janet Hughes to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations.

Prof Nasheuer, represented by Mark Connaughton SC and Mairead McKenna BL, sought the injunction on grounds it is flawed.

This he argues is because Ms Hughes had consulted with the complainant and NUIG, but not with the professor and his advisers, about the terms of reference of the investigation into the allegations.

In addition, Ms Hughes counsel said had represented the complainant in her capacity as a trade union official during the 1990s.

Ms Hughes disclosed this to the complainant, the Labour Court and to NUIG, but did not tell the professor or his lawyers this until after the process had begun.

These matter it was argue led to fears the investigation was biased against Professor Nasheuer.

NUIG opposed the application, and rejects claims that the process is flawed.

It also denies the investigation breached Prof Nasheuer’s rights to fair procedures, and argued the court should not intervene with the investigation.

In her ruling, Ms Justice Baker said by engaging with the complainant and NUIG over the terms of reference and not with the professor, Ms Hughes had created circumstances that would give rise to an apprehension of bias.

The flaw in the process, the judge added, may not be capable of being cured because the investigation team was capable of making binding findings adverse to the professor.

His reputation could be irreparably harmed if the process were allowed continue. An award of damages could not adequately compensate such damage, the judge added.

She said the balance of convenience also favoured the halting of the investigation into the allegations against Prof Nasheuer.

The judge then adjourned the case to early October.