Suspended employee obsessed with tall, long-legged women, court told

National Museum worker claims his suspension is unwarranted and unlawful

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 2006 and 2016.

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 is 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.

On Friday, the High Court heard Dr Halpin was sanctioned following an investigation into an allegation 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 was disputed by Dr Halpin, with an address at Yellowmeadows Avenue, Clondalkin, Dublin.

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 downloaded to 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.

Oisín Quinn SC for the museum said it appeared 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.

Mr Quinn said it appeared 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.

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 his suspension was done to satisfy the media and create a distraction from other management issues concerning the museum.

Following the conclusion of submission from both sides Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy reserved judgment on the application.