Black former Met officer wins right to sue for discrimination

In a recent ruling a black former Metropolitan Police Officer was given the right to sue her bosses for discrimination at an employment tribunal. The former police officer suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after an assault which took place while she was on duty. The ruling means that professionals in many fields will receive the full protection of equality legislation.

The ruling has been hailed as a game changer by Race4Justice, which is a coalition of equity groups. Apart from police officers, other fields such as barristers, solicitors, doctors, dentists, nurses and other professionals may now receive full protection against inequality, which may have been previously denied them.

Because some panels enjoyed judicial immunity, employees such as the former Met Officer were barred from suing employers, even if an internal misconduct panel had found adverse reports.

That immunity has now been removed by the Supreme Court. Any worker who believes that they are the victim of discrimination may now make a claim against their employers. This can be on the grounds of discrimination based on gender, race or disability.

Along with Race4Justice, the Equality and Human Rights Commission also intervened, stating that the ruling was significant. A spokesperson stated that had written to the Ministry of Justice to clarify that all professionals including the police could make a claim. The ruling clearly states that police officers are also entitled to bring any discrimination claims before an employment tribunal. This includes dismissals following proceedings before a misconduct panel.

The police officer in question was assaulted in 2010 and as a result she suffered PTSD. Soon after she was involved in an incident which led to her arrest and dismissal. While she stated that she was drunk at the time, the officer attributed her behaviour to her PTSD.

After an investigation the officer faced disciplinary charges. While she accepted that the was guilty of alleged misconduct, the officer hoped that her good record prior to the incident, as well as her PTSD would stand in her favour. Although medical evidence showed that her condition played a great part in her behaviour, the police misconduct panel decided that she be dismissed immediately.

When the police officer tried to bring a claim against the Met she found that her claim had been struck out. This was in June 2013. The employment tribunal dismissed her appeal in March 2014.

The basis for both claims to be dismissed was because the police misconduct panel was a judicial body and therefore enjoyed immunity from the claim.

After the recent judgement, ethnic minorities, women, gay and disabled employees may now go to employment tribunals to claim unfair dismissal or discrimination, during the course of misconduct and disciplinary tribunals.

After filing an amicus brief at the Supreme Court, Race4Justice stated that the recent judgement was a part of the new civil rights strategy to challenge inequality and discrimination, and to further the cause of equality in all races.

A former chair of the Commission for racial Equality, Mr Herman Ouseley stated that there should be no hiding place which showed itself in the form of judicial immunity, for any decision makers, decision making bodies and their processes.

Mr Ouseley went further by saying that too many attempts had already been made to deny justice and restrict access to individuals who rightfully sought to invoke the provisions of Equality Act 2010. There should be no more denial of justice.

Chair of the London Race and criminal Justice Consortium, Lee Jasper said that the filing of the amicus brief showed a renewed determination by British black organisations to search for and find a focused legal strategy to help achieve equality. Mr Jasper concluded by saying that the notion of legal immunity from the Equalities Act 2010 will now become the subject of an intense legal examination.

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