A social worker has dismissed claims he sexually harassed a former colleague, saying they had an affair that lasted more than a year.
Victoria Preece told a General Social Care Council conduct hearing last year that Tom Starkey had harassed her for 10 years, pestered her for dates, showed her his erection and sexually assaulted her at a Christmas party in 2002.
Preece alleged that Starkey began to tell her about how unhappy he was in his marriage in late 1995 and, in January 1996, told her he had had a terrible Christmas.
‘Tricked’ into hotel stay
The next month they stayed together at a hotel in Stratford, which Preece claims she was tricked into.
Responding to the claims at the GSCC conduct committee yesterday, Starkey said: “Why would someone who had preliminary concerns about me choose to accompany me to a hotel? It did not happen in the way she is suggesting.”
Two months later the pair spent a night at a hotel in York. Preece claims that Starkey booked one room and they were due to attend a childcare conference.
Starkey told the committee yesterday: “This was two months after I ‘tricked’ her in Stratford. We are dealing with an adult who had her own credit card, who could have just gone to reception and booked her own room.”
He added that there had been no conference. If there had been he would not have taken Preece because it would have been irrelevant to her role as an office manager.
“We had gone there to spend a night in a hotel and go round York,” Starkey said, adding that he had bought Preece a suit.
Preece has alleged that in March 1997 Starkey duped her into visiting a hotel near Ludlow to meet a work associate.
But Starkey dismissed her version of events. “She came, we were together in the room, made love and then she went home,” he told the committee.
Starkey yesterday told the committee that he and Preece had a relationship between late 1995 – six months after he joined children’s services provider Clifford House – and early 1997.
“If I managed to trick her then, how did I manage to trick her three or four times to go to hotels?” he said.
The hearing, which began last year but was postponed in August until this week, continues.