Southgate v The Wilf Ford Family Trust – Respondent succeeds in costs application against Claimant

In the case of Southgate v The Wilf Ford Family Trust ET/1800196/2016 the Employment Tribunal (“ET”) found that Ms Southgate had lied to the Employment Tribunal, that her conduct was unreasonable, and that she should have to pay the Trust’s costs to the sum of £12,500.

Ms Southgate made claims in the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal, direct sex discrimination, harassment related to sex, and automatically unfair dismissal.

The Employment Tribunal was held last year and, under cross-examination, Ms Southgate changed her explanation of an email that was critical to her case. The Employment Tribunal held that Ms Southgate’s allegations were “clearly unsustainable at the hearing” and that Ms Southgate had been “clutching at straws because she had been caught out lying”. The Tribunal also held that Ms Southgate’s conduct during the case had been “scandalous” behaviour on her part, that she had not been honest, and that she was not a credible witness.

The Employment Tribunal dismissed all of Ms Southgate’s claims.

After the dismissal of Ms Southgate’s claims the Trust made an application for their costs of defending the claim, based on two arguments: 1) that Ms Southgate’s conduct in bringing and conduct proceedings had been unreasonable and 2) that the claim had no reasonable prospects of success. The Trust sought the payment of its costs of approx £50,000 in defending the claim.

The Employment Tribunal found in the Trust’s favour in its application for costs, holding that serious findings of fact had been made against Ms Southgate based on her conduct during the disciplinary process and at the hearing, that she had produced fabricated and false evidence, and that she had blamed the Trust for the false evidence when she knew she had created it. The Tribunal found that Ms Southgate’s unreasonable conduct warranted the Tribunal exercising its discretion to award costs in the case and that Ms Southgate should pay the Trust’s costs to the sum of £12,500.

Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “This case shows that parties should be careful to be truthful and honest both prior to and during proceedings, lest the Tribunal exercise its discretion to award costs against the party that has not been found to be honest – successful costs applications are rare but the Tribunal statistics show that the incidence of costs orders is increasing.”

The decision of the Tribunal in Southgate v The Wilf Ford Family Trust can be found here.