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Gemma Witherington successful in establishing that a university owes a duty of care towards their students when making sexual assault claims against a fellow student

Judgment was handed down on 5 October 2023 following a fully contested liability and quantum trial in which Gemma acted for the successful Claimants.

The claim concerned two actresses who were sexually assaulted by a fellow student whilst studying at the renowned Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, whose alumni include some international actors such as Sir Anthony Hopkins and of which, King Charles is a former President.

The case is of interest as it establishes that a university does owe a duty of care to students when they report a sexual assault allegation against another student. The standard of care (paragraph 576 of the judgment) was held to be that “there is a duty to take reasonable care by taking reasonable protective, supportive, investigatory and, when appropriate, disciplinary action steps and in associated communications.” The standard is that of a reasonable higher education provider.

The College was found to have breached that duty of care to both students. The Judge found 12 separate breaches (paragraph 682 of the judgment) which included:

  1. Failing to suspend the student accused of sexual assault.
  2. Failing to keep the accused student separate from one of the Claimant victims.
  3. Failing to offer appropriate support and counselling to the Claimant victims.
  4. Failing to identify sexual misconduct as a specific form of harassment and failing to assess the credibility of the accused’s account of the sexual assaults.

A link to the full judgment is here.

Gemma acted on behalf of the successful Claimants, instructed by John Watkins of Bater Law.

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