NUIG academic’s court action over ‘sabotage’ claims

Heinz Peter Nasheuer: denies bullying allegation.

A senior academic at the National University of Ireland Galway has brought a High Court challenge over what he says is a flawed investigation into claims he tried to ‘sabotage’ a colleague’s career.

The action has been brought by Heinz Peter Nasheuer who is a Professor of Biochemistry at the university.

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

Arising from the complaints, the Labour Court appointed former trade unionist Janet Hughes to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations.

However Prof Nasheuer says the investigation is flawed and should not be allowed continue, on grounds including that Ms Hughes had previously represented the complainant in an unrelated matter during the 1990s.

In proceedings that commenced before the High Court on Tuesday, Prof Nasheuer seeks various injunctions against NUIG including one halting the investigation on the grounds that it is oppressive and unreasonable.

He seeks to have the injunctions kept in place until the case has been fully determined by the High Court.

NUIG, represented by John O’Donnell SC, opposes the application, and rejects claims that the process is flawed or that it should be halted. It says that the process is an investigation only and is not a disciplinary hearing.

Mr O Donnell said it could well be the case that nothing adverse to the Professor will come out of the process.

Counsel said NUIG also denies the investigation has in any way breached Prof Nasheuer’s rights including his rights to fair procedures.

Mark Connaughton SC, appearing with Mairead McKenna BL for Prof Nasheuer, told the court his client had worked with NUIG since 2003 and was “completely shocked” when the allegations were first put to him by the university.

The bullying allegations, which counsel said are all denied, are quite serious. The complainant’s counsel had accused his client of trying “to sabotage” that person’s career.

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

Counsel said during the course of the investigation, his client discovered Ms Hughes had disclosed this fact to the complainant, the Labour Court and to NUIG, but had failed to do so to his client until after the process had begun.

He said that another reason why the investigation is flawed was that 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.

And he added said these matters had led to fears that the investigation was biased against Professor Nasheuer.

Counsel also said that a further complaint was that his client at one stage of the process was wrongly accused of not co-operating with the process. This was not the case and the Professor had co-operated, he added.

Counsel said that arising out of these concerns they had asked that the investigation be halted.

The failure to do so resulted in the Professor bringing proceedings before the High Court.

The hearing before Mr Justice Marie Baker has been adjourned, and will recommence later this month.