Sexual banter and harassment left social worker ‘sick and ill’

A social worker has told a conduct committe she was in “absolute shock” after a colleague allegedly described his experience of anal sex to her.

Linda Gresty told the GSCC committee that she was also left feeling “sick and ill” and “absolutely mortified” by another occasion when Tom Starkey had spoken about his sex life.

She said Starkey had told her he would tell women to “bring a spare pair of knickers” because of the effect he was going to have on them.

Starkey is appearing before the committee on allegations that he sexually harassed four women, including Gresty.

Gresty alleged that seven months after she joined Clifford House, a children’s services provider, in 1996, where Starkey was the director of social work, he began pestering her for dates and asking her out one or twice a week for six years.

On one occasion, Gresty alleged Starkey told her he had thought about her in the shower and got an erection.

Gresty, who was later made a partner in Clifford House, said she did not complain about Starkey. “I found the prospect of reporting Tom daunting because he was the most senior manager, not answerable to anyone.” She added that Starkey had refused to employ a human resources officer.

Gresty said there had been a boy’s culture at Clifford House, “an informal culture of jokery that was totally inappropriate”.

“It was very difficult to control and address,” Gresty added.

She eventually confronted Starkey, who said he was horrified and that she had taken what he said the wrong way.

A complaint was made and in 2005 independent social worker Joyce Brand was hired to carry out an investigation. Gresty said that during the investigation Starkey communicated to her through another colleague that he would “not accept any verdict he was unhappy with”.

Gresty said: “[Starkey] said I was the devil incarnate. It was a witch-hunt and I was fanning the flames”.

Starkey denies the allegations and says he had a relationship with one of the women making the allegations.

Starkey was a board member of the Children’s Workforce Development Council from April 2005 to March  this year.

The hearing, which began yesterday, continues.

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