A law professor and whistle-blower Kostakopoulou brings London High Court Case against Warwick University for libel, malicious falsehood and human rights violations. Professor Kostakopoulou, an internationally recognised professor of European Law and Policy, was suspended from Warwick University, having been accused by Prof Christine Ennew, OBE, Provost, and Prof Andrew Sanders, Head of Warwick University Law School, after raising a formal grievance against them for unlawful and unethical conduct. The suspension of Kostakopoulou imposed considerable damage on her students who were instructed to take alternative courses. As well as being banned from campus, the library, and all email communication with her colleagues, Kostakopoulou was prohibited from supervising her undergraduate and graduate students who suffered as a consequence of her suspension.
- Chair of University Council did not investigate allegations
Despite several letters to Sir David Normington, Chair of Warwick University Council, informing him of the level of bullying, the baseless allegations and of her innocence as well as grievances, he ‘failed to act to stop her bullying and victimisation’.
After her suspension, Prof Ennew appointed Prof Andy Lavender the Head of Theatre and Performance Studies (now Vice-Principal and Director of Production Arts at London Guildhall School of Music & Drama) to investigate the allegations framed by her ‘on no evidence of wrongdoing, with no particularisation’ and without allowing Kostakopoulou to be heard.
- Allegations ‘without any evidence of student complaint.’
Following a suspension of six months and when Kostakopoulou was ill and under medical certification, Warwick University convened a hearing chaired by Prof Meyer, deputy to Christine Ennew, and Prof Steele. The statement of the case of Kostakopoulou cites that Professor Ennew accused her of harassment and intimidation of students. Still, there is no evidence of any students making any such complaint nor any factual conduct by Kostakopoulou or any activation of Warwick University’s Student Complain Procedure. Nevertheless, ‘the hearing panel dismissed Kostakopoulou in her absence based on falsehoods made by Prof Lavender’.
- The eighteen unanswered applications
This was not the first time the managers of Warwick University unlawfully targeted professor Kostakopoulou. The ordeal encountered by Kostakopoulou must be seen in the context of her Employment Tribunal claim against Stuart Croft, Vice-Chancellor of Warwick University, Prof Rebecca Probert and Mrs Gillian McGrattan and the 18 applications Kostakopoulou made to Birmingham Employment Tribunal, Employment Appeal Tribunal, and the Court of Appeal to request Warwick University to evidence the misconduct charges levelled at her by Prof Croft, all of which were refused by Court and Tribunals. That UK courts and tribunals refused Kostakopoulou’s 18 applications for information of what she did wrong in line with natural justice suggests they did so to cover up the shamefully contrived allegations of misconduct issued at Kostakopoulou by Prof Stuart Croft – a bullying tactic at Warwick University.
- High court, ‘qualified privilege’ vs lack of student complaint
Kostakopoulou brought a High Court claim for libel, malicious falsehood, human rights and EU law rights violations. In a hearing lasting one and a half days in London’s High Court on October 18-19 before Mr Justice Nicol, M Richard Munden, Counsel for the defendants, argued that the defamatory statements by Ennew and Sanders, and statements contained in Lavender’s report, in addition to statements that were not factual, but were made under qualified privilege. This was a common theme in his continuing argument. Mr Munden further argued that their statements did not amount to a plausible case of malice. The core of Mr Munden’s argument seemed to be hinged on whether publication of information about Kostakopoulou was within the disciplinary proceedings of Warwick University and whether, on account of Kostakopoulou’s employment, contract, she was deemed to have consented to the disciplinary process and the circulation of false and defamatory statements. Other points argued by Mr Munden focused on meetings Sanders was attempting to arrange with Kostakopoulou but found it challenging to agree on such meetings, which resulted in Sanders instigating disciplinary proceedings, in addition to issues surrounding Lavender’s investigation report, which he argued presented no severe harm caused by words or impact of words to amount to malice. At no point in his lengthy argument did Mr Munden present any evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Kostakopoulou, nor did he proffer evidence of any student complaint against her that supported the allegations made by Ennew that warranted Kostakopoulou’s suspension and subsequent dismissal.
Also, on Monday afternoon through to Tuesday, Kostakopoulou, representing herself, demonstrated that statements made by Ennew were contrived to attack her professionalism and integrity at a most crucial level and involved the destruction of her character and unblemished academic career in a manner that she would never be able to recover from. Professors Ennew and Sanders contrived issues without concrete evidence and framed bullying, vexatious allegations to bully her out of a job. They knew that their statements were false, and thus qualified privilege was both a pretext for seriously unethical and unlawful conduct and was defeated by their malice.
- Circumvention of procedures and Violation of Nolan principle of good governance
Kostakopoulou’s skeleton argument demonstrated how Ennew, Sanders and Lavender could abuse their position by circumventing Warwick University procedures and showing disregard for the legal prohibition of breaches of human rights, discrimination and victimisation, and the Nolan principle of good governance. It was further argued that ‘if Sanders was interested in confirming whether Kostakopoulou had seen her students, this could have easily been obtained via Tabular, the Warwick University student recording system, which Sanders chose to ignore. And if he wished to meet with her, he would not order her to meet him on days she had academic commitments in the UK and abroad, which could not be cancelled. In further arguments, Kostakopoulou explained that Lavender overlooked pertinent evidence at his disposal. He had lied when he stated no evidence would suggest Kostakopoulou was unavailable to meet with Sanders’. The evidence at his disposal showed she was examining a PhD thesis at the University of Southampton. Kostakopoulou pointed to the wealth of documentary evidence provided to Lavender, but which he chose to ignore and of the many inaccuracies contained in his report. Kostakopoulou had also brought to the court’s attention that ‘Mr Smith, Warwick University’s Solicitor of BLM, had wilfully misled the court by including false statements and inaccuracies in his witness statement’, which he had nonetheless retained in his submission of documents to the High Court.
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The case was adjourned, with the judge saying he would give his decision in due course. In court papers seen by this media, Kostakopoulou responded to over 90 questions requested by Mr Smith. Yet, when Kostakopoulou requested that Mr Smith reciprocated by providing answers to no more than eight questions, he flatly refused. In tendering her application to Mr Justice Nicklin to direct Smith to disclose the required information, Justice Nicklin refused Kostakopoulou’s request on the basis that such request was premature. On Kostakopoulou’s second application to Justice Nicklin to request Smith to disclose the information required, Justice Nicklin refused the request because it was without merit and threatened to impose the sanction of a Civil Restraining Order on Kostakopoulou (!) should she make further applications to the Court for the information she had a legal right to receive and which the Defendants should have provided before suspending her in 2020.