London, April 1: Barclays is not liable for the alleged sexual assault of more than 100 patients by a doctor carrying out medical examinations on the bank’s behalf, UK’s Supreme Court has ruled.

The UK’s highest court overturned earlier rulings that the bank was “vicariously liable” for any assault proven to have been carried out by Dr Gordon Bates, who died in 2009 aged 83.

The test case arose out of a damages action brought by a group of 126 claimants, who cannot be named for legal reasons, who claimed they were assaulted by the doctor.

The issue examined was whether an employer was “liable for sexual assaults committed by a medical practitioner in the course of medical examinations carried out at the employer’s request, either before or during the claimant’s employment”.

The panel of five supreme court justices were unanimous in allowing the bank’s appeal, saying Bates was “a classic independent contractor” and the person engaging him was “not vicariously liable”.

The claimants, mostly women, were examined without chaperones between 1968 and 1984 by Bates at his home in Newcastle upon Tyne. The majority were pre-employment checks of prospective employees, with some patients as young as 16.

A police investigation, begun in 2012 three years after Bates’s death, concluded there would have been sufficient evidence to pursue a prosecution if he had not died.

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