Image Credit: DS Pugh
This article contains references to sexual assault and rape. Reading the article may be distressing for some people.
Nouse has received information from a member of the Physics department indicating that they continued to work with now-convicted rapist Joseph McKeown during the period of his trial for sexual assault. The revelation follows months of speculation concerning whether the department knew about McKeown’s trial while he was under employment.
On 12 September, The York Press published an insensitively-titled article reporting on the convicted rapist, Joseph Mckeown. The title read: ‘‘Brilliant’ York scientist Joseph McKeown jailed for rape’. The content of the article was also written throughout in a poor journalistic manner, with little regard for the victim. The article included sentences such as: “Instead [of studying a PhD course] the biophysicist, of Heworth, who got a first class degree with distinction, is starting five and a half years in prison for raping and sexually assaulting a woman.”
Following the publication of the article from The York Press that was both printed and online, the University of York released a statement, arguing that the article caused offence to those acquainted with the University and concern regarding whether the University would allow the convicted rapist to study at York post-release. Part of the University’s statement read as follows: “The article stated that references were provided by academics from the Department.
“It is important to highlight that the references provided to the Court were submitted by individuals, without the prior knowledge of the Department of Physics or the University. They do not reflect the views of either the Department or the University. We are deeply concerned by this situation and are looking into the circumstances.”
Since the release of the statement, a member of the Physics Department has come to Nouse with information: “I’m a member of the Physics department, contacting you with information about Joseph McKeown, who was recently reported in The York Press as he was convicted of rape and sexual assault.”
The member went on to allege that: “What was not reported was that he was employed in the department as a summer student, where he worked closely with a female student.” The source from the Physics Department went on to clarify, however, that “The relationship seemed purely professional”.
It later emerged that McKeown had been working “Specifically the Photonics group”, as told by the member of the Department.
The member did note that there is “No evidence for anybody knowing about the trial [within the Physics Department] but there certainly were people that did - cannot safely give specifics”. Currently, the case “is not being discussed in any capacity - it feels like people want it to be forgotten”, stated the member.
Following the information given by the Physics whistleblower, a spokesperson from the University of York gave the following information in regards to the case:
“The matters raised are of deep concern to the University and are being investigated as a matter of urgency. As the investigation has not yet concluded it would be inappropriate to comment further.
“We take cases of sexual harassment and violence extremely seriously, and the safety and well-being of our staff and students is of paramount importance.”
Nouse has reached out to the Students’ Union to clarify what their position is following the article that came out from The York Press, regarding the issue of the convicted rapist that may be permitted to study at the University of York post-release. This is an issue that Steph Hayle, the Students’ Union Community and Wellbeing officer, took in its true severity:
“To imply that a person with known sexual violence convictions could be allowed back into the University and given a role with an element of power and responsibility is unacceptable.
“Given all the work the Union has been doing to lobby for better support for victims, better reporting services, and an all around safer University environment, the alleged statements made by University staff made about McKeown’s return post release show there is still so much more to be done for people to comprehend the true severity of this issue.
“We firstly condemn the recruitment of staff with a past sexual violence conviction, and hope the University would do the same, and also request a formal apology from the York Press for their abhorrent coverage of this issue. A perpetrator’s intellect is in no way relevant to this situation, and the coverage has only harmed the narrative around sexual violence by phrasing the perpetrator’s intelligence as more important than the horrific impact this crime has had on his victim.”
The Students’ Union has also responded to the case, by saying:“We must ensure that everyone at York can live without fear and is suitably trained to make bystander interventions as suggested by Universities UK. It is essential that York is a safe space for our students and that the University and authorities use the full force of their power to remove anyone who threatens or perpetuates sexual violence.”
While the University is vague on the subject, the Students’ Union is clear on its stance.
Anyone who has been affected by this article, or who has concerns about sexual violence, seek support by following these links or contacting these helplines:
Employee support from the University:https:// www.york.ac.uk/admin/hr/browse/health-and-well-being/employee-assistance
Student support from the University:https://www.york.ac.uk/students/health/advice/sexual-violence/
Visit the Rape Crisis website at: Rapecrisis.org.uk
Or call Rape Crisis on: 0808 802 9999