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Unfair Dismissal

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Was it unfair for an employer to withhold certain evidence from a disciplinary panel?

Not on the facts of this case, held the EAT in Hargreaves v Manchester Grammar.

Mr Hargreaves was a teacher with an unblemished record until it was alleged that he had grabbed a pupil, pushing him against the wall and putting his fingers to the pupil's throat. He was dismissed by a disciplinary panel and an employment tribunal found the dismissal fair.

Mr Hargreaves appealed to the EAT, contending the employer's investigation was inadequate, given the career-changing impact of the allegation. Also, the employer had failed to disclose to the disciplinary panel evidence from potential witnesses who had said they had seen nothing.

The EAT dismissed the appeal. The tribunal had correctly directed itself as to the higher standard of investigation that might be expected, given the very serious nature of the allegation. And it was within the band of reasonable responses to decide not to put forward to Mr Hargreaves and the disciplinary panel details about interviews with those who had seen nothing. It did not follow that, because those individuals had seen nothing, nothing had happened. The tribunal permissibly concluded the employer had reasonably formed the view that the excluded evidence was immaterial and could not assist.

The tribunal was entitled to conclude the employer had conducted a fair investigation and that the dismissal was not unfair.

Thanks to Dr John McMullen of Wrigleys Solicitors LLP for preparing this case summary.

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