Belfast Telegraph

Ex-victims' charity boss called colleague 'fat b*****' and 'Castle Catholic', tribunal told

Victim Support NI workers claim ex-boss Reid made a string of insulting remarks

By Christopher Woodhouse

The sacked former boss of Victim Support NI called a senior colleague a “fat b*****” and a “Castle Catholic”, it has been claimed.

Susan Reid created a climate of fear and bullying during her time as the Belfast based charity’s chief executive, an employment tribunal was told last week.

And some staff members dubbed her “Myra” after the infamous child killer Myra Hindley.

Ms Reid, who led the charity for 10 years, was dismissed in May last year following complaints by staff and former staff about how they were treated by her.

At the time Ms Reid denied any wrongdoing and said she planned to take a case to an industrial tribunal claiming unfair dismissal from VSNI, which receives around £2m each year from the Justice Department to support victims of crime.

Her case opened in Belfast last Tuesday and Sunday Life was the only media organisation present as the evidence unfolded at the hearing, including claims there were a litany of complaints from the charity’s staff.

Ms Reid is seeking substantial damages from VSNI for the way in which allegations against her were investigated and the handling of her dismissal.

Reid, who denies all the allegations made against her, was accused of creating a climate of fear at the charity through remarks she is 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, Reid was questioned about it at her disciplinary hearing.

Details of Ms Reid’s alleged behaviour came to light as the independent investigator was questioned at the tribunal about the report commissioned by VSNI into staff complaints.

Ms Reid is also accused of making comments about one staff member’s sweating and shaking movements during a meeting.

She allegedly said that a staff member’s shaking made the table move and it was “doing her head in”.

The tribunal also heard that Reid used the phrase FIFO: “Fit In or F*** Off”.

In one incident, a staff member had complained that someone had spat on her shoe while she was outside smoking a cigarette.

When the employee raised this with her, Mrs Reid allegedly said to her that it was a sign she should give up the habit.

The tribunal was told that it was behaviour like this that led staff at VSNI to call Reid and another senior staff member “Ian and Myra”, in reference to Moors murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley.

When the independent investigator interviewed Ms Reid, she said that staff were victims of “vicarious trauma”.

Mrs Reid explained to the investigator that because of the nature of their work the staff began to see themselves as victims of workplace bullying or harassment.

Mrs Reid’s barrister argued that allegations of bullying or harassment could have been caused by remarks made by his client in jest and were not meant to be taken seriously.

He cited an incident where Ms Reid attempted to diffuse a row between two employees by saying one had, “forgotten to take their pills today”, a remark which was held against her in the report.

Her barrister also said that her dismissal was unfair as she was never allowed to challenge specific allegations levelled against her. Mrs Reid contends that this prevented her from knowing specifically what the allegations were against her and who was making them.

Her barrister also said that the disciplinary hearing had dismissed Mrs Reid after “rubber stamping” the findings in the independent report.

Giving evidence to the tribunal last week, trustee of VSNI and board member Brendan Loughran, said that the remarks Ms Reid is alleged to have made were inappropriate for a person in a position of power.

Mr Loughran, who chaired Ms Reid’s disciplinary hearing, told the tribunal that as chief executive, she should have been the model of the values of the organisation.

He also rebuffed the claims of “rubber stamping”.

The hearing continues. Ms Reid is still to give evidence.

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