Group alleging sex assaults by doctor during medicals win round in damages fight

A group who allege they were sexually assaulted by a doctor carrying out medicals for Barclays Bank have won a round of their High Court damages action.

The 126 claimants - mostly women - were examined without chaperones between 1968 and 1984 by Dr Gordon Bates at his Newcastle upon Tyne home.

The majority were pre-employment checks of prospective employees and involved vulnerable teenagers as young as 16.

A posthumous police investigation begun in 2012 - three years after Dr Bates's death at the age of 83 - concluded there would have been sufficient evidence to pursue a prosecution if he had not died.

There were 48 criminal acts reported and a further 77 inappropriate medical examinations recorded.

More complainants came forward and proceedings were issued against Barclays in 2015.

In London on Thursday, Mrs Justice Nicola Davies ruled that Barclays was "vicariously liable for any assaults that any claimant may prove to have been perpetuated" by Dr Bates in the course of medical examinations carried out at the request of Barclays either before or during their employment.

The group claimed that Dr Bates was "integrated" into Barclays.

He used a Barclays template for the examinations, for which he was paid a set fee, and which were undertaken for the purpose of "furthering the aims" of the bank's business, said Elizabeth-Anne Gumbel QC.

She added: "Moreover, the conditions which allowed the abuse to occur include the trust which the claimants placed in Dr Bates as the "bank's doctor" and the sense of obligation arising from the fact that examination was an integral part of the recruitment process which applicants were required to 'pass'".

Lord Faulks QC, for Barclays, said it did not admit or deny the allegations but Dr Bates would be liable for any assaults he perpetrated.

His relationship with the company was neither one of employment nor "akin to employment".

He was self-employed with a "portfolio" of activities and was engaged as an independent contractor.

The judge said the fact that Dr Bates organised his own professional life did not negate an argument that he was under the control of the bank and the alleged abuse was "inextricably interwoven" with the carrying out of his duties pursuant to his engagement by Barclays.

In reaching her conclusions, she accepted that it was a balancing exercise between two innocent parties.

Had the claims been made earlier, Dr Bates and his estate could have had the financial means to meet them, but the action against the bank was the only legal recourse now available to the claimants.

Jessica Standley, a specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon, which represents 24 of Dr Bates's alleged victims, said later: "Dr Bates abused his position as the bank's doctor to sexually assault vulnerable victims, many who were teenagers.

"Barclays insisted that new employees attend medical examinations with Dr Bates, making it a pre-requisite for getting the job.

"Today's ruling is the first step on the road to justice for his victims."

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