Students abused by Scottish university academic receive 'substantial' payouts

Students who were sexually abused by the shamed former academic Kevin O'Gorman have received "significant" compensation.

Strathclyde and Heriot-Watt universities agreed to five-figure settlements to at least two victims who raised civil actions after O’Gorman abused male students between 2006 and 2014.

Further financial settlements are expected, with the total paid out anticipated to top £500,000.

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O'Gorman was convicted at Edinburgh Sheriff Court of 14 offences, including sexually assaulting seven males and sending sexually inappropriate messages to another male between 2006 and 2014.

Serial abused: ex-university professor Kevin O'GormanSerial abused: ex-university professor Kevin O'Gorman
Serial abused: ex-university professor Kevin O'Gorman

He maintained his innocence but Sheriff Alistair Noble sentenced O'Gorman to a community payback order including 240 hours of unpaid work to be completed in nine months, and three years of supervision.

Sheriff Nobile also imposed as home detention curfew meaning O'Gorman had to remain at his home address in Milngavie, East Dunbartonshire, between 7pm and 7am for six months.

One of his victims described O'Gorman as a "monster" and claimed Strathclyde University had "turned a blind eye" to the abuse.

Fraser Blevins, now 35, who waived his right to anonymity, said: "That man is nothing short of a monster who preyed on innocent people but at the same time I can look at him and see him as nothing but weak and pathetic.

"I am disappointed it wasn't a custodial sentence. It's difficult to imagine that man being free in the comfort of his own home."

O'Gorman's lawyer, Niall McCluskey, urged the court to spare him jail and read several references praising the ex-academic and Scout leader from former university colleagues. The court heard a social worker assessed him as being of medium risk of carrying out future sexual offences but there was "no suggestion he presents a risk of serious or immediate harm".

Both universities launched investigations into O’Gorman and the failure to protect his victims.

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Mr Blevins said that if other victims had not come forward "I wouldn't have had the courage to do so, so I am indebted to them for their bravery and noble pursuit of justice".

O'Gorman worked at Strathclyde from 2005 until 2012 when he joined Heriot-Watt as a professor of management in the school of management and languages. He became head of international in the school of social sciences and was dismissed in 2017 following a complaint of sexual misconduct.

An independent report in 2020 by Lord Sandison QC, commissioned by Strathclyde, found that it had known of allegations against O'Gorman but a senior staff member, who was unaware at the time, gave the academic a reference that allowed him to leave with a payoff during disciplinary action.

Kim Leslie, a partner at law firm Digby Brown, which represents several victims, said: "For years our clients have shown a bravery few could understand and I pay tribute to them, and others affected by the deplorable actions of O'Gorman, for what they have now achieved."

Strathclyde University said Sandison's inquiry was "thorough and detailed" and the safety and wellbeing of students and staff "are always our first priority".

Heriot-Watt university said it was "deeply saddened at the distress inflicted on student victims by Dr O'Gorman".

It added that the recommendations of an independent review by Morag Ross QC were accepted in full.