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Police officers can bring claims in employment tribunal following dismissal by a misconduct panel

The Supreme Court has ruled that, under EU law, police officers have the right to bring claims in the Employment Tribunal (ET) following dismissals arising out of proceedings before a misconduct panel.

Background

In P v The Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, P, a police officer, suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following an assault at work. Two years after the assault, she was dismissed by a misconduct panel following an incident that led to her arrest.

P admitted misconduct but argued that her dismissal was discriminatory as the incident leading to her dismissal arose in consequence of her PTSD, which amounted to a disability under the Equality Act 2010. She also claimed that the misconduct panel failed to make reasonable adjustments for her disability. P brought claims in both the Police Appeals Tribunal under the statutory scheme and the ET.

P’s claims were dismissed by the ET, the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal. Her claims were dismissed on the basis that the decisions of judicial bodies, such as the police misconduct panel, are protected by the principle of judicial immunity and cannot be challenged in a tribunal. This was the decision reached by the Court of Appeal in the 2004 case of Heath v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. P’s only redress was therefore via the Police Appeals Tribunal.

P appealed to the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court decision

The Supreme Court allowed P’s appeal, holding that the Equal Treatment Framework Directive, the EU directive on which the UK Equality Act is based, gives all individuals, including police officers, the right to be treated in accordance with the principle of equal treatment in relation to employment and working conditions. Member states are required to ensure that effective and equivalent remedies are available to ensure these rights are protected, and any national rules relating to judicial immunity are only enforceable to the extent that they are consistent with EU law.

In this case, the Supreme Court held that only allowing police officers the right to bring a claim to the Police Appeals Tribunal and not to an ET did not meet the principles of equivalence and effectiveness. Comparable discrimination claims can be brought before an ET under national law, and the ET has a greater range of remedies available to it, including compensation, compared with the Police Appeals Tribunal. Accordingly, P’s claim should be allowed to proceed for consideration before an ET.

What to take away

This decision will be highly significant for all police forces who regularly handle disciplinary and dismissal issues via a police misconduct panel. As a result of this decision, police officers who believe that they have been discriminated against will have the option of seeking redress via an ET, as well as via the usual route of the Police Appeals Tribunal which could result in a considerable  increase in claims. Decision makers will need to be aware of the requirements of the Equality Act when taking disciplinary action, and officers will now be able to seek monetary compensation as a result of discriminatory action.

For further information on how this issue might affect your organisation, please contact Alessandra Gettins, Andrew Rowland or Bridget Prosser.

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