Police Misconduct Panel Immune from Claims of Discrimination
Monday 25th January 2016
The Court of Appeal in P v The Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis has held that a policer officer cannot bring a claim against a Police Misconduct Panel for discriminating against her.
The Claimant, a serving police officer, was assaulted in 2010 and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. In September 2011 she was involved in an incident which led to her arrest. After a disciplinary investigation, she was brought before the Police Misconduct Panel where she accepted that she had been guilty of misconduct. In mitigation, she relied on her post-traumatic stress disorder and long working hours. The Panel decided that she should be dismissed without notice.
She brought claims of disability discrimination against the Police Misconduct Panel, specifically:
- Discrimination arising from disability (i.e. her behaviour in September 2011 was a consequence of her post-traumatic stress disorder);
- Failure to make reasonable adjustments for her and as a result she suffered a disadvantage compared with non-disabled officers; and
- Harassment by way of the bringing and resolution of the disciplinary proceedings which constituted unwanted conduct relating to the Claimant’s disability.
Police officers are considered to be office holders and not employees, so generally they do not have access to Employment Tribunals to bring a claim. However, there are some limited exceptions which include alleged discrimination.
In July 2013, the Employment Tribunal struck out the claim on the basis that the Police Misconduct Panel is a judicial body and, as such, enjoyed immunity from suit.
The Claimant appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (‘EAT’). The EAT found that the Employment Tribunal had been right to strike out the claim because it violated the Panel’s judicial immunity. It held that things said or done by the Panel in the course of making a decision are protected by immunity, but not necessarily the decision itself. In this case, the Claimant’s allegations centred on the Panel’s conduct, when exercising its judicial functions which ultimately led it to the decision it made. As a result, the Panel had immunity from suit.
The Claimant appealed but the Court of Appeal later dismissed the appeal, upholding the decisions of the Employment Tribunal and the EAT.
Sophie Wilson from the employment law team at Gordons says, “This case demonstrates the difficulties that police officers seeking to challenge their dismissal will face in Employment Tribunals. Although, it is worth remembering that a police officer is not prevented from bringing a discrimination or whistleblowing claim against their Chief Constable.”