Sussex

University of Sussex 'sorry' for domestic violence failings

Image of attack on Allison Smith Image copyright Allison Smith
Image caption Allison Smith was punched, kicked and doused in salt by her former boyfriend and lecturer

A university has apologised for the "inadequate" way it handled the case of a former student who was attacked by her lecturer partner.

Allison Smith, 24, was "knocked out" by Dr Lee Salter in September 2015 but he continued teaching at the University of Sussex for another 10 months.

The university commissioned a review to examine its response.

Reporting on the findings, vice-chancellor Prof Adam Tickell said he was "very sorry for the failings".

Image copyright Allison Smith
Image caption Allison Smith described how the lecturer punched her in the face and kicked her thighs

Salter was finally suspended by the university after a conviction in June 2016 and later lost his job. He was sentenced to 22 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months.

The independent report by professor of criminology, Nicole Westmarland of Durham University, praised two members of staff but identified four areas of poor practice. It said:

  • the university failed to follow its own domestic abuse policies and procedures
  • there was an inadequate risk assessment
  • there was an over-reliance on, and lack of scrutiny of, human resources decision making
  • it failed to communicate with Ms Smith and external organisations in a professional manner. It also failed in its duty of pastoral care

Prof Tickell, who commissioned the report on his first day as vice-chancellor, said: "Our foremost concern remains with Allison Smith, who has been incredibly courageous.

"It is only right that I am now able to formally acknowledge that the university's response to her case was inadequate.

Image copyright YouTube
Image caption Salter was a senior lecturer in media and communications at the University of Sussex

"I am very sorry for the failings identified... I am committed to the university addressing these issues."

Allison Smith, who was a post graduate student during the time of the relationship, said she was pleased to see the university plan to put "major changes" in place.

She added: "I will never forget the kindness shown to me once the case became public and I deeply thank everyone who has supported me."

Salter was found guilty of assault by beating and causing criminal damage to belongings at Brighton Magistrates' Court in June.

As well as his suspended sentence, he was issued with a restraining order, fined £2,765 and ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.

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