More than 100 sex abuse victims of a doctor have won the right to fight Barclays Bank for compensation after defeating the corporation in High Court legal battle.
The victims – who were attacked by Dr Gordon Bates’ when he carried out medical assessments for the bank’s new starters in the North East – were forced to go to court after the banking giant refused to accept it was responsible for his actions.
But Mrs Justice Nicola Davies ruled at the High Court that Barclays is vicariously liable for the doctor’s abuse, after they employed him on a consultancy basis between 1968 and 1984.
Dr Bates died in 2009 but in 2013 police investigated at least 48 allegations of sexual assault against victims, the majority of whom were women, with some as young as 15. They ruled that there would have been enough evidence to charge Dr Bates with sexual assaults.
A total of 126 victims brought the case against Barclays in a bid to prove Barclays is responsible for his actions, arguing that they had no choice but to have the medical examinations and that Barclays insisted all staff were assessed by Dr Bates.
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.
Witness statements were taken from five 16 year-old victims for the hearing as a sample of the abuse carried out.
The judgment stated: “Each claimant was aged 16 at the date of the examination and believed it was compulsory to attend, if she did not do so no job would be offered. No claimant was offered a choice as to the doctor. The arrangements for the examination were made by the bank. The claimant was required to attend at the date, time and place specified.”
The judgment added that Barclays; “does not admit or deny the allegations of sexual abuse made by the claimants.” It adds: “As to the legal status of Dr Bates it is denied that he was an employee of the bank, thus, in a conventional analysis, it would not be vicariously liable for his alleged sexual abuse of its prospective employees. It is said to be clear on the evidence that Dr Bates was self-employed and was engaged by the bank as an independent contractor. He would be liable for any assaults he perpetrated,”
But the court ruled that bank had “created a risk of tortious activity” in employing Dr Bates in the way that they did.
The judgment said: “The claimants were vulnerable teenagers/children. They were required to attend medical appointments at Dr Bates’ home. The bank’s template required that the claimants underwent a physical examination. No requirement for a chaperone was imposed. No claimant was afforded the opportunity to undergo a consultation by a female doctor or a doctor of their choice. It is submitted that by arranging for consultations in this way the bank was creating a risk of abuse which in fact occurred.”
In conclusion, the court ruled that, despite both the bank and the victims being “innocent” of the crimes allegedly carried out by Dr Bates, the bank is liable for his actions.
It stated: “The defendant is vicariously liable for any assaults that any claimant may prove to have been perpetuated by Dr Gordon Bates in the course of medical examinations carried out at the request of the defendant either before or during their employment with the defendant.”
The victims will now pursue civil actions against the bank.
Jessica Standley, a specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon, which represents 24 of Dr Bates’ alleged victims, said: “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.”