Sexual harassment gave me nightmares, says woman

A woman suffered nightmares, disrupted sleep and low self-esteem after being sexually harassed by her former boss, a GSCC conduct committee was told.

Deborah Price, one of four women who have made allegations against Tom Starkey, a former board member of the Children’s Workforce and Development Council, said he often looked at her breasts and encouraged other male staff to do the same.

Price, a reception co-ordinator at Clifford House, a provider of children’s residential care, alleged Starkey would look down her top from a balcony. She said: “He would say ‘it’s a lovely view from up here, boys’.”

Starkey, a director of Clifford House at the time, would share intimate details about his life with Price, bragging that women could not resist him because of his charisma, status and wealth, and would question her about her private life, the committee was told.

Price, who gave evidence from behind a screen yesterday and became so upset the hearing had to be adjourned, said she felt vulnerable and would often drive home at night crying. She said she felt powerless to complain because she feared for her job.

“It was very difficult,” Price said. “It was a hierarchical structure at Clifford House and I was at the bottom. For me to challenge the harassment it meant I had to tackle the whole culture and that, for me, was a massive undertaking.”

She added: “Every day at work became a further hurdle I would have to overcome.”

It was alleged that Starkey obtained Price’s mobile phone number from staff records and sent her texts suggesting they meet for a drink.

Price’s colleague, Linda Gresty, who gave evidence to the committee earlier this week also claiming harassment, was told about the texts and raised the issue with Starkey. She identified Price, even though Price had said she did not want to be named.

Starkey then summoned Price to a two-hour meeting where he told her he had “meant no harm”. “He said he was just a scally from Liverpool,” she said.

She became tearful during the meeting but Starkey blocked the door saying there was no way she could leave the room crying.

Gresty told the committee Starkey had caused animosity among staff by boasting about his wealth.

“It was becoming embarrassing. He was very proud of his new swimming pool being built and would tell staff on £14,000 a year about it,” she said.

The panel is hearing today from the third of the four women Stephanie Rowles. She alleges Starkey continually asked her out on dates, made inappropriate comments and made sexual advances towards her, asking to go to her hotel room, during a work trip to Ireland in 1998.

Starkey denies the allegations covering the period 1995-2005, and says he had a relationship with one of the women who was making the claims.

The hearing, which began on Monday, continues.

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Tom Starkey accused by four women of sexual harassment

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