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University sorry for failure to suspend lecturer who attacked ex-student partner

A university has issued an apology for its "inadequate" handling of a case involving one of its former lecturers who was found guilty of assaulting his ex-student partner.

The University of Sussex failed to suspend Dr Lee Salter until 11 months after it was informed by relatives of Allison Smith that he had attacked her, a report said.

An independent review into the case has revealed that media attention appeared to have been a factor in the university finally suspending Dr Salter last August 3.

His suspension came a month after he was sentenced to 22 weeks in jail, suspended for 18 months, 150 hours unpaid work and a restraining order after being charged with assault and criminal damage. An appeal against his conviction is due in April.

Dr Salter later resigned on August 12. The case provoked a public outcry, including an online petition signed by more than 3,000 people calling for his dismissal.

The review found that the university failed to follow its own policies and procedures, failed to communicate with the victim and outside organisations in a professional manner and had an inadequate risk assessment.

The review, conducted by Durham University's Professor Nicole Westmarland, concluded: "The university failed in their duty of pastoral care towards (the student).

"On top of the emotional support she received she should have been kept up to date with the broad actions that were being taken, subject to the university's contractual and statutory duties of confidentiality.

"Failing to do so caused her considerable stress and anxiety over an extended period of time."

The review made 11 recommendations and also praised two members of staff, one of whom offered support to Ms Smith in a "subtle, unassuming and discreet" way.

The university's new vice-chancellor Professor Adam Tickell said: "Our foremost concern remains with Allison Smith, who has been incredibly courageous in sharing her story.

"I have spoken with Allison to let her know my personal views and it is only right that I am now able to formally, and publicly, acknowledge that the university's response to her case was inadequate.

"Consequently, on behalf of the University of Sussex, I am very sorry for the failings identified in Professor Westmarland's report. I am grateful to Allison for taking part in the review. We will continue to offer her whatever support she needs."

Prof Tickell said he was aware how upset many community members were about the case, and the university was now bringing in a series of major initiatives in response to the recommendations.

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