Belfast Telegraph

Woman in the eye of storm over claims of bullying as charity's dirty laundry was aired publicly

By Adrian Rutherford

It is an organisation that prides itself on offering compassion and reassurance to some of the most vulnerable in society.

But the last fortnight has brought astonishing claims of a culture of fear and bullying at Victim Support NI.

The former boss of the charity - dubbed Myra after the infamous child killer Myra Hindley - was alleged to have referred to one colleague as "a fat b******" and a "Castle Catholic".

Susan Reid was also said to have used the phrase FIFO - "Fit in or f*** off".

A fake Facebook profile was even created, apparently in reference to her, which was followed by work colleagues.

The dramatic revelations came during a tribunal taken by Ms Reid, the charity's former chief executive, following her dismissal last year.

Victim Support NI receives around £2 million each year from the Department of Justice to support victims of crime.

Ms Reid led the charity for 10 years, but was sacked last May after complaints from staff about how she treated them.

She always denied any wrongdoing and, last May, said she planned to take an industrial tribunal claiming unfair dismissal.

It finally opened on Tuesday last week and heard claims of a litany of complaints from the charity's staff.

Ms Reid was accused of creating a climate of fear through remarks she was alleged to have made and her attitude towards staff.

The tribunal heard she allegedly called one senior staff member a "fat b******".

This same staff member had previously taken a grievance case against her after she allegedly called him a "Castle Catholic".

Though the senior employee later withdrew the complaint, Ms Reid was questioned about it at her disciplinary hearing. Ms Reid was also accused of making comments about one staff member's sweating and shaking movements during a meeting.

She allegedly said that the shaking made the table move and it was "doing her head in".

The tribunal also heard that Reid used the 'FIFO' phrase.

Fed-up staff allegedly called her and another senior staff member "Ian and Myra", in reference to Moors murderers Brady and Hindley.

In a further hearing earlier this week, it was claimed staff were described as a "bunch of bitches" by a consultant.

Lisa Gillespie - a human resources expert from England, who was involved with the charity for a period - denied using that phrase.

She did, however, tell Employment Judge Murray the workers "were bitching about her (Ms Reid)".

The tribunal was told that certain VSNI staff members are Facebook friends with a fake character named 'Bea Strong', apparently set up to reflect Ms Reid, as the account user shares her date of birth and school.

And on Thursday, what would prove the tribunal's penultimate day, a leading figure from the charity said it was right to sack Ms Reid.

Joseph Dunne, chairman of the board of trustees, said he believed Ms Reid was "guilty of bullying and harassment", which was affecting staff.

Mr Dunne said that although it was recognised that Ms Reid had "contributed significantly to the organisation over the years she had been there", issues of confidence in her had arisen and he felt the decision to sack her had been the right action.

Ms Reid denied any wrongdoing and it was expected that her side of the matter would be aired yesterday.

However, about 45 minutes after proceedings were due to get under way, Employment Judge Murray said a settlement had been reached.

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