Belfast Telegraph

Professor 'obsessed' with colleague's work, job bias hearing told

BY CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

A university scientist has been accused at an employment tribunal of having an obsession with a colleague's research in a hospital during a scandal over the use of dead babies' organs.

Former University of Ulster employee Christian Holscher claims he was harassed, threatened and punished by being demoted from his role as a professor to senior lecturer as a result of raising concerns about fellow academic, Professor Charles Vyvyan Howard.

Prof Holscher was found guilty of pursuing a vendetta against Prof Howard in an internal disciplinary hearing in January 2012 – a verdict he did not appeal.

In a second disciplinary hearing in January 2013, he was demoted. Holscher first became aware of Mr Howard's involvement in the Alder Hey Children's Hospital Liverpool organs scandal in March 2009.

In 1999 it was revealed that body parts of dead children were "harvested" for research in secret at the Liverpool hospital.

The two academics were working together at the University of Ulster on a research project, but Holscher told the tribunal yesterday he became concerned about Howard's scientific ethics. He alleged Howard added two illegal experiments to the project without his knowledge.

On June 8, 2010 director of human resources Ronnie Magee held two meetings with the academics to improve relations.

During Howard's meeting with Mr Magee the academic said he had no problem working with Holscher.

The tribunal heard Holscher arrived with his mind made up that he no longer wanted to work with Howard.

Holscher told the tribunal: "I raised the serious issues of lack of ethics and they have not been addressed."

He said he had to "protect himself" regarding his career and feared he may be "implicated in illegal activity".

Holscher described Howard as "acting in completely irresponsible ways", and in an email sent to Mr Magee he pointed to the Alder Hey scandal as he wrote, "you have to keep in mind that the detail of this matter is not new".

UU's counsel Barry Mulqueen alleged: "This is your obsession with Alder Hey, your obsession with Prof Howard and your obsession since 2009."

Holscher was asked by Mr Mulqueen if he could point him to a document which said Prof Howard was found guilty of misconduct during his involvement with the organ scandal.

He responded: "I do not have such a document, but I have very damning evidence."

Mr Mulqueen told the tribunal: "The reason you can't point me to evidence of guilt or otherwise is indicative of your campaign against Prof Howard."

Holscher denied this, saying: "Scientists must be seen to work with ethics."

The tribunal continues.

BACKGROUND

In 2009, Prof Holscher raised concerns about the ethical conduct of Prof Howard after learning of his involvement in the Alder Hey organs scandal. He told external bodies about his past conduct. In 2012 a disciplinary hearing charged Holscher with pursuing a vendetta against Howard. This year, at a second disciplinary hearing, Holscher was demoted from professor to senior lecturer. Holscher has named nine senior members of staff he claims were involved in a conspiracy against him and that his demotion was linked to his complaints against Howard.

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