In a ground-breaking decision that underlined the primacy of European law, the Supreme Court has opened the way for a police officer to appeal against her dismissal to an Employment Tribunal (ET) on disability discrimination grounds.
The officer had suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after being assaulted whilst on duty. She was subsequently involved in an incident that led to her arrest and asserted that her behaviour on that occasion was related to her condition. However, following a disciplinary hearing before a Police Misconduct Panel (PMP), she was dismissed without notice.
She sought to appeal against her dismissal to an ET on the basis that the decision to sack her constituted disability discrimination and disability-related harassment. However, in a decision that was later upheld by the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal, the ET struck out her claim on the basis that the PMP was a judicial body and that her claim was barred by the principle of judicial immunity.
In unanimously allowing her appeal, however, the Supreme Court noted that EU Council Directive 2000/78/EC confers on everyone, including police officers, a directly effective right to be treated equally in relation to employment and working conditions, including dismissals. The Directive took priority over domestic law and the UK was obliged to ensure that appropriate judicial and/or administrative procedures are available by which such rights can be enforced by effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.
Allowing police officers to bring such claims before an ET would give them access to a wider range of remedies, including compensation, and the concept of judicial immunity should not be treated as a bar on complaints to ETs brought by police officers who claimed that they had been treated contrary to the Directive.
Reading additional words into Section 42(1) of the Equality Act 2010, so as to enable the officer to pursue her claim, was in line with the grain of the legislation and was warranted by the principle that domestic legislation should be interpreted in conformity with EU law. The officer’s case was remitted to the ET for full consideration of her complaints.