Sacked Probation Officer Wins Fresh Hearing of Unfair Dismissal Claim

In Scott v Northumbria Probation Board, a probation officer whose unfair dismissal claim was rejected by the Employment Tribunal (ET) has seen that decision quashed by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).
Mr Scott was dismissed for misconduct by his employer, Northumbria Probation Board, after he was accused of submitting false expenses claims, including the cost of takeaway food on occasions when he was working late shifts. The receipts he had produced were not the originals but he claimed this was because the restaurant frequently ran out of receipts. He had therefore adopted a procedure whereby he gave staff a template receipt to fill in and sign.
His employer had put forward evidence suggesting that the restaurant was not open on some of the days corresponding to receipts he had presented when making claims for expenses.
During an internal appeal against his dismissal, Mr Scott submitted fresh evidence, which he argued strengthened his case that the restaurant had in fact been open on the relevant days.
The internal appeal panel said that it could not resolve that issue conclusively and so rejected a major part of the case against Mr Scott. However, the panel was satisfied that his appeal against his dismissal should be rejected.
Mr Scott brought a claim against his employer for unfair dismissal, but the ET dismissed his claim, finding that the appeal panel was entitled to find that the remaining evidence was sufficient upon which to base a finding of gross misconduct.
Mr Scott appealed against this decision on the ground that the conclusion of the original disciplinary hearing had been called into question by his evidence that the restaurant had been open at the times he said that he had ordered food from it. He argued that, in such circumstances, the ET was required to examine the internal appeal procedure with ‘particular care’ to make sure that the overall process was fair, notwithstanding any deficiencies at the early stage.
The EAT agreed. In this case, the appeal panel was ‘of necessity, putting itself in the position of being the principal decision‑maker on the issue whether the misconduct was proved and what the sanction should be’. As such, there was a need to scrutinise its decision-making process to ensure it was fair. However, it was not clear from the ET’s decision whether or not it had examined the appellate hearing with particular care and the ET had erred in law in that particular respect.

The decision to dismiss Mr Scott’s unfair dismissal claim was quashed and his case was remitted for rehearing by the ET.