Compensation award over ‘appalling’ harassment
Compensation award over ‘appalling’ harassment

An award-winning social worker has won “significant” damages following a campaign of sectarian harassment by her ‘colleagues’ at a care centre.

Laurena Kane, who has received an award for her outstanding workwith children suffering from cancer, had been subjected to alitany of vile anti-Catholic abuse.

From the Castlewellan area of County Down, Ms Kane was the only Catholic in anall-woman team of social workers working in Knockbracken Healthcare Park when the sectarian harassment and bullying began in 2004.

Offensive sectarian comments were made in her presence soon after she got her job. These included: “I hate Catholics”; “Since those Catholicsmoved in there’s an awful smell coming over the hedge”; “I bet you call him some Taigy name like Freedom”.

Ms Kane’s barrister, Noelle McGrenera QC, toldthe court that one social worker, Barbara Lowry, was the “chief protagonist” of the abuse. She said her client had been subjected to sectarian and religious “bullying and intimidation”.

During one incident a co-worker accused Ms Kane of having stolen staples and stationery. She added: “You have to watch them. You can’t take your eyes off them.”

Ms Kane, who was named ‘Northern Ireland social worker of the year’ for her work with child cancer patients, was awarded the settlement at the HighCourt in Belfast this week. It marked the culmination of an extraordinarily long, four-year legal battle against her employers, the Belfast Trust, theNorth’s biggest health trust.

The trust only admitted liability last week in relation to Ms Kane being the victim of religious and sectarian harassment. None of the social workers who committed the abuse were formally disciplined by the organisation.

Ms Kane developed a depressive illness following the sustained intimidation and ensuing legal action. She lost her hair, suffering from the stress-related condition alopecia.

Maura Herron of O’Hare solicitors, who represented Ms Kane, described her client as “very brave” for pursuing the case after suffering such “appalling” harassment.

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© 2012 Irish Republican News