Barrister fails in race discrimination claim against the Ministry of Justice

hmctsA barrister formerly employed by HM Courts and Tribunal Service has lost his claim against the Ministry of Justice after alleging that he was discriminated against when he was moved to another court.

Mr Haras Ahmed made his race discrimination claim to the Employment Tribunal after alleging that senior management at Waltham Forest and Redbridge Magistrates’ Court had discriminated against him because of his race when they moved him to another court in Stratford after he was accused of fraud.

Mr Ahmed managed the legal team at Waltham Forest and Redbridge Magistrates’ Court and came under suspicion after one of the members of his team, an administrative officer named Munir Patel, was found after an investigation by the Ministry of Justice’s fraud team to have been taking bribes from the public in return for not reporting speeding fines and penalty points. Mr Patel was subsequently prosecuted and was the first person to be convicted under the Bribery Act 2010.

The investigation by the Ministry of Justice’s fraud team, headed by Pamela Smith, into Mr Patel found no evidence to connect Mr Ahmed to Mr Patel’s fraudulent acts. However, Ms Smith apparently continued to hold suspicions that Mr Ahmed had been complicit in the fraud. Although the investigation did not connect Mr Ahmed to the fraud, it found that Mr Ahmed had failed to complete audit checks on files and he was moved to a court in Stratford. Mr Ahmed submitted a complaint regarding the fact that he had been moved to another court and then resigned after his complaint was only partially upheld.

After having resigned from his employment Mr Ahmed brought claims for constructive dismissal, race discrimination, harassment and victimisation against the Ministry of Justice.

The Employment Tribunal in the matter was held in March 2014 and the Employment Tribunal panel found against Mr Ahmed in respect of all issues relating to discrimination (direct race discrimination, harassment, and victimisation). In particular, the Employment Tribunal held that the direct discrimination claims were submitted outside of the relevant time limits and therefore could not succeed.

Mr Ahmed appealed the judgment of the Employment Tribunal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, arguing that the Employment Tribunal had failed to consider its findings in totality when deciding whether to draw inferences or apply the burden of proof provisions.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal, chaired by Judge David Richardson, rejected Mr Ahmed’s appeal. The Employment Appeal Tribunal found that the Employment Tribunal had not erred in law in finding that Mr Ahmed’s claim for direct race discrimination was out of time and, further, that the Employment Tribunal had in any event made an error with regards to the Tribunal had made a significant error of law in concluding that race discrimination had contributed to Mr Ahmed’s move to Stratford.

Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “The Employment Appeal Tribunal has found in the Ministry of Justice’s favour in relation to Mr Ahmed’s appeal. Mr Ahmed must now decide whether he wishes to appeal this matter further or let the matter rest there.”