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Terrence Higgins Trust trustees accused of bullying chief executive out of job

By Ben Kelly

The former chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, one of Britain’s biggest HIV charities, has told a tribunal that she was subjected to a 15 month bullying campaign which resulted in her dismissal, after she raised concerns over misconduct within the organisation.

Dr Rosemary Gillespie was brought in to carry out a reorganisation of THT in April 2014, but claims she was forced out of her job in July 2015 after she began investigating the behaviour of trustees.

She has now taken the charity to the Central London Employment Tribunal, over what she claims was an unfair dismissal. It came after she raised several “legitimate public interest concerns” to the trustees, including claims of “sexual misconduct and potential criminal behaviour.”

These claims both stemmed from an incident in March 2015 when the vice-chair of trustees Paul Jenkins is alleged to have groped and tried to drunkenly kiss a male member of senior management, following a fundraising auction at Christie’s.

Dr Gillespie claimed that Dr Mike Brady, THT medical director, told her that Jenkins tried to kiss him and put his hand on his crotch, while he attempted to put the inebriated man into a taxi.

“I was shocked at what Dr Brady had said, and that a trustee would behave that way,” she told the tribunal.

She also claimed that a colleague told her Mr Jenkins had been in this state before, and that on a previous occasion he had “failed to pay for goods he had purchased and the money was lost to the charity.” She alleges this was auction lots to the tune of £15,000.

Dr Gillespie then began investigating these claims, but implied that trustees opted to sweep the controversies under the carpet, at her expense, saying they “refused to tolerate legitimate scrutiny of their own behaviour and removed me from office.”


She claims this dismissal came after staff waged a campaign to remove her from her post, attempting to do so through the appraisal process, and again by seeking a ‘no confidence’ vote against her.

“Rather than support me and deal with the issues in a proper manner as they should have done, trustees dismissed me. I believe I have been dismissed because I raised these protected disclosures.”

Dr Gillespie is seeking damages from THT in the form of compensation for lost wages since she was dismissed. The hearing is ongoing.

THT was hit by controversy as recently as January, when it was revealed that the charity had paid as much as £350,000 to outgoing executives in the year 2013-14.

This came in for criticism, particularly at a time when funding for HIV services is under threat. THT claimed that this was an “isolated spike” and that no current employee earns more than £100,000.

The charity was formed in 1982 with a mission to create “a world where people with HIV live healthy lives free from prejudice and discrimination, and good sexual health is a right and reality for all.” It remains one of the most successful and well respected charities in the UK.

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