Former head of Facilities and Services Brendan Leahy claims he was unfairly dismissed from his €120,000 salary job after College authorities learned from a press report that he had pleaded guilty to sexual assault.
According to RTÉ, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) was told university management “went into a tailspin” when news broke that in March 2021, Mr Leahy had pleaded guilty to sexual assault.
The assault occurred at Kehoe’s Pub on South Anne Street, Dublin 2, in the summer of 2018, in which Leahy repeatedly pushed his body against the woman from behind.
The woman had been staying in Leahy’s spare bedroom, which was in use as an AirBnB.
A three-month suspended sentence was imposed on Mr Leahy on the condition that he did not re-offend in the next year, completed a sex offenders education course, paid a €1000 fine, and gave €1000 in compensation to the victim.
He was also ordered to no longer provide AirBnB services.
He later appealed to the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, and was given the benefit of the probation act in August 2021. The Probation of Offenders Act 1907 provides the courts with a way of dealing with first-time offenders and offenders who are unlikely to be in trouble again, in which the courts give the offenders a type of official warning without imposing a sentence on them.
It has emerged that Mr Leahy’s line manager only became aware that a charge had been brought against the complainant when he received a text on the evening the newspaper reports began to appear.
College’s HR director Mary Leahy said the complainant “had not informed his line manager of the charge or what was going on prior to conviction” and was asked to take paid leave pending an investigation.
The WRC is now hearing a complaint by Mr Leahy under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 against the university.
A major dispute in the case centres on the interpretation of the 1907 Probation of Offenders Act in the context of the investigation and disciplinary proceedings carried out by the College.
The tribunal heard that Mr Leahy wrote to College’s HR department stating that the Circuit Court order meant that his conviction had been “disposed of”, and that because his conviction “no longer existed”, there was nothing for the HR department to look into.
Mairead McKenna, an employment law barrister appointed by the College to examine the allegations against Mr Leahy, said that the conviction is “recorded as being dismissed on the Circuit Court order, however the facts remain proven”.
At a hearing in November, College’s HR director said “It would be absolutely inappropriate for there to be an order of reinstatement or re-engagement in this case”.
“This is a university with female staff and female students. I say it is entirely appropriate and reasonable for Trinity College to say it has no trust and confidence in Mr Leahy now.”