09:20, October 25 88 0 theguardian.com

2017-10-25 09:20:03
Black former Met officer wins right to sue for discrimination

A black former Metropolitan police officer who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following an assault while on duty has been given the right to sue her bosses for discrimination in the employment tribunal.

The supreme court ruling on Wednesday has been hailed as a gamechanger in the workplace by Race4Justice, a coalition of equality groups that intervened in the case.

They say that not only police officers but also judges, magistrates, lay tribunal members, barristers, solicitors, doctors, dentists, nurses and other professionals could now be entitled to the full protection of equality legislation previously denied to them.

Employees such as the former Met officer who brought the case had been barred from suing their employers for discrimination if an internal misconduct panel made adverse findings about them, as these disciplinary panels enjoyed judicial immunity.

That immunity has now been removed by the supreme court. Workers who believe they have been victims of discrimination on the grounds of race, gender or disability can now pursue discrimination claims against their employers in the employment tribunal.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission also intervened in the case along with Race4Justice, which includes the Society of Black Lawyers and Operation Black Vote.

Race4Justice members said the ruling was significant. “We are writing to the Ministry of Justice to ask them to clarify all the professions as well as the police that today’s ruling will apply to,” a spokesperson said.

The judges ruled that police officers are entitled to bring discrimination claims in the employment tribunal in respect of dismissals following proceedings before a police misconduct panel.

The woman who brought the case is a former Met officer who was assaulted in 2010 and suffered PTSD as a result. In September 2011, she was involved in an incident that led to her arrest and dismissal. The officer was drunk at the time, but she attributed some aspects of her behaviour to her PTSD.

Following an investigation she faced disciplinary charges. She accepted that she had been guilty of the alleged misconduct, but relied on her good prior record as an officer and her PTSD in mitigation, and also medical evidence that her behaviour was partly attributable to her PTSD. However, the police misconduct panel decided that she should be dismissed without notice.

She tried to bring a claim against the Met in the employment tribunal, including a claim for disability discrimination. In June 2013, the employment tribunal struck her claim and, in March 2014, the employment appeal tribunal dismissed her appeal.

The basis of both decisions was that the police misconduct panel was a judicial body and, as such, enjoyed immunity from this kind of legal claim.

Following Wednesday’s judgment this judicial immunity is no longer lawful.

Black, Asian and other ethnic minorities, women, gay and disabled workers can now go to employment tribunals to claim unfair discrimination in the course of disciplinary and misconduct tribunals.

The supreme court judges overturned a previous decision by the court of appeal. It decided that the equal treatment directive of the EU has direct effect in UK law, ensuring that employees and office holders appointed by the crown must have a remedy to claim discrimination against disciplinary or misconduct tribunals.

The Race4Justice coalition filed an amicus brief at the supreme court and said that Wednesday’s case is part of a new civil rights strategy using the courts to challenge discrimination and advance the cause of race equality.

Herman Ouseley, former chair of the Commission for Racial Equality and the chair of Kick It Out, said: “There should be no hiding place in the form of judicial immunity for decision-making bodies, decision-makers and their processes.

“Too many attempts have already been made by the state to restrict access to and therefore deny justice for individuals rightfully seeking to invoke the provisions of the Equality Act 2010. No more denial of justice.”

Lee Jasper, chair of the London Race and Criminal Justice Consortium, said: “The filing of an amicus brief indicates a renewed determination by British black organisations to embark on a focused legal strategy to achieve civil rights and equality. The notion of legal immunity from the Equalities Act 2010 will now be the subject of intense legal examination.”