Belfast Telegraph

UUP adviser in sex emails censure

By Anne Madden

An Ulster Unionist special adviser and former Church of Ireland minister abused his work computer by sending sexually explicit emails to a number of women, a government report has found.

Dr Brian Crowe (40) was sacked by the then Minister for Employment and Learning, Danny Kennedy, in March after a Belfast Telegraph investigation revealed he had boasted on an internet chatroom of offering political favours for sex.

The independent report into the activities of the disgraced adviser concluded, however, that there was no evidence that he inappropriately influenced or sought to influence policymaking while at the heart of government.

The review was headed by retired civil servant Pat Toal, who examined 480 files and 1,500 documents. He also interviewed top officials in the Department of Employment & Learning (DEL), former DEL ministers, Lord Empey and Mr Kennedy, as well as the lobbyists involved in the controversy.

Mr Toal found that Dr Crowe's chatroom boasts were not true and that his meetings with a lobbyist, whom he claimed to have received sexual favours from, took place in his own office in Adelaide House and not at her charity office.

In his report, Mr Toal writes: "I asked him why he had claimed he not only could influence decision-making, but had done so in the past. He replied that online chats were a fantasy world in which there is no link to reality."

Dr Crowe's work laptop was forensically examined by IT experts, but all data had been erased prior to its surrender. Dr Crowe explained that he routinely deleted all his emails and that he could not have wiped his computer as it was confiscated on the day he was suspended.

The Belfast Telegraph put its allegations to Dr Crowe on the morning of Wednesday, March 23 - he was not suspended until later that afternoon.

However, fragments of information were retrieved from the hard disk of his laptop, which contained emails, mostly to women, of a personal and sexually explicit nature. The report found that these emails "clearly indicate that he mixed his private life with official business" and "his use of departmental equipment for personal and sexually explicit correspondence was not appropriate".

Mr Toal added: "I have found no evidence that his chat line boasts were anything other than that."

Dr Crowe initially denied the allegations, but a week later he admitted engaging in a series of online conversations and exchanging inappropriate photographs.

The father-of-two said he was seeking psychiatric help and issued a public apology at the time to his wife, family, Mr Kennedy, the UUP as well as the Bishop and Diocese of Connor.

However, he insisted his online conversations were mere "fantasy chat" and that he had not influenced government policy. Mr Toal concluded that he did not have any recommendations to make.

Background

Former UUP special adviser Dr Brian Crowe had been registered on chatroom website UK Chatterbox.com since November 2008. By chance, a female lobbyist stumbled upon him online at the end of last year. He boasted that he had abused his position for sexual favours during a number of chatroom conversations. The Belfast Telegraph exposed the story in March.

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