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Barclays Bank in court battle over sex attacks during medicals

Barclays Bank fights ruling that it’s liable for ‘doctor’s sex assaults against 126 prospective employees during medical checks over two decades’

  • Women came forward to say they were sexually assaulted during medicals
  • A judge has since ruled Barclays is liable to pay the claimants compensation
  • The bank has taken the case all the way to the Supreme Court in London 

Barclays Bank is taking its fight over compensation to 126 people who say they were sexually assaulted by a rogue doctor during medical examinations.

Scores of women from the North East of England allege they were sexually assaulted by the late Dr Gordon Bates who examined prospective employees between 1968 and 1984. He died in 2009.

The attacks are at the centre of a long-running legal battle over whether Barclays is liable to pay them damages, with the bank insisting it is not.

Today, the case reached the UK’s highest court as Barclays’s lawyers telling judges that Dr Bates was ‘an independent contractor’ and so it shouldn’t be forced to pay. 

Barclays bank is resisting compensation claims by former prospective employees who said they were sexually assaulted by a doctor during medical examinations

Lord Faulks QC, for the bank, made it clear on its behalf that it ‘very much regrets’ any abuse that may have been ‘suffered at the hands of Dr Bates’.

He said that a High Court judge, ruling on the preliminary issue of liability, had decided the bank was ‘vicariously liable in the circumstances, and the Court of Appeal agreed’.

Lord Faulks told the justices, including the Supreme Court’s president Lady Hale, that the bank’s case was that Dr Bates was ‘an independent contractor’.

Both sides agreed that he was ‘not a conventional employee’. 

The claimants, mostly women, were examined without chaperones between 1968 and 1984 by Dr Bates at his Newcastle upon Tyne home.

The majority were pre-employment checks of prospective employees and involved teenagers as young as 16.

A posthumous police investigation begun in 2012, three years after Dr Bates’s death at the age of 83, concluded there would have been sufficient evidence to pursue a prosecution if he had not died.

There were 48 criminal acts reported and a further 77 inappropriate medical examinations recorded.

More complainants came forward and proceedings were issued against Barclays in 2015.

The Supreme Court (pictured in September) will now rule on the long-running case

Ruling on the preliminary issue at the High Court in 2017, a judge decided that Barclays was ‘vicariously liable for any assaults that any claimant may prove to have been perpetuated’ by Dr Bates in the course of medical examinations carried out at the request of Barclays either before or during their employment.

The group claimed that Dr Bates was ‘integrated’ into Barclays.

It was argued on behalf of the bank that the doctor’s relationship with the company was neither one of employment nor ‘akin to employment’ as he was self-employed with a ‘portfolio’ of activities.

But the High Court judge said the fact that Dr Bates organised his own professional life did not negate an argument that he was under the control of the bank and the alleged abuse was ‘inextricably interwoven’ with the carrying out of his duties pursuant to his engagement by Barclays.

The Supreme Court justices are being asked to decide whether an employer is ‘liable for sexual assaults committed by a medical practitioner in the course of medical examinations carried out at the employer’s request either before or during the claimant’s employment’.


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