Troubling that officers can sue for discrimination but not if dismissed by a panel

Judge raises contradiction in the rights afforded to police

A Court of Appeal judge has highlighted an apparent contradiction in the right of police officers to take legal action under the Equality Act 2010.

Lord Justice John Laws last week found in favour of the Met in an employment tribunal appeal.

An officer who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after being assaulted was involved in an incident while drunk on a night out which led to her arrest and dismissal.

The officer – named in court only as ‘P’ – said the misconduct panel which ended her career in 2012 had been guilty of disability discrimination because it failed to take her PTSD into account.

She admitted most of the allegations against her but said her condition – and a lack of support from the force – was responsible for her behaviour.

Lord Justice Laws dismissed the specific appeal because police misconduct panels are immune from legal action such as describing them as discriminatory.

But he said: “I have been troubled by a particular feature of the case. If I am right, it would appear that claims of discriminatory dismissal brought by police officers, where the effective dismissing agent is a disciplinary panel such as was convened here, will not be viable in the Employment Tribunals; yet parliament has legislated to allow such claims to be made.

“Parliament, however, must have passed the Equality Act 2010 in the knowledge of the Heath judgment [which set the precedent that police misconduct panels are immune from being sued for discrimination], and included no provision to remove the cloak of immunity from the disciplinary panels.”

Police officers are not employees so cannot sue for unfair dismissal.

Commenting on the ruling, which his firm had no connection to, solicitor Jonathan Goolden, a partner at Wilkin Chapman, told “The judge in this case has upheld the view that you can’t take legal action against a misconduct panel because it’s a judicial tribunal but he has highlighted that you can’t give a right to a police officer to sue for discrimination under the Equality Act and then prevent them being able to action a claim.”

(Original article published by Police Oracle on 25/01/16)