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18 April 2013 0 Comments
Posted in Employment

Internal disciplinary proceedings

Author headshot image Posted by , Partner

The horrifying story of Baby P raises its head again in the context of the recent Court of Appeal decision in the appeal brought by the employees who were dismissed as a result of what happened. [read more] The high profile case of Christou v London Borough of Haringay arose out of the circumstances of the Baby P case. The Claimants were social workers who were disciplined following the death of Baby P under the council’s disciplinary procedures and given written warnings. However, following the extensive publicity, the original disciplinary proceedings were revisited, found to be unsafe, and fresh disciplinary proceedings were commenced, as a result of which the Claimants were dismissed.

They appealed, arguing the doctrine of res judicata, which operates to prevent a matter being reopened which has already been pronounced upon by a Judge or a Tribunal with jurisdiction. They argued that this doctrine should have applied to prevent the disciplinary proceedings being re-opened to impose a more severe sanction.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal on the basis that internal disciplinary proceedings operated by an employer were not a form of adjudication susceptible to the doctrine and that the purpose of a disciplinary procedure was not to determine an issue which would establish the existence of a legal right or determine a dispute, which is the premise on which the doctrine is founded. It said that the critical question was whether the procedures “operate independently of the parties such that it is appropriate to describe their function as an adjudication between the parties”.

This legal update is provided for general information purposes only and should not be applied to specific circumstances without prior consultation with us.

For further details on any of the issues covered in this update please contact Gemma Ospedale, Partner in Employment on 020 7583 2222.

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