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13 July 2012
Court of Appeal
Risk of damage to an employer's reputation by allegations against one of its employees of child abuse (even if unproven and untested) can be a good enough reason to dismiss, even if the job does not involve working with children.
L was an International Policy Adviser for Ofcom. Ofcom has a statutory duty to have regard to the vulnerability of children. It was active in various social responsibility initiatives.
L was arrested in Cambodia on suspicion of having sexually abused children. This resulted in a disciplinary investigation but Ofcom concluded L was innocent.
But some time later, the Metropolitan Child Abuse Investigation Command (CAIC) contacted Ofcom with allegations going substantially beyond what had previously been said. L was invited to a further disciplinary meeting. Ofcom decided to dismiss because of the risk of reputational damage and their conclusion that he had not been open with them at the earlier hearing.
The Court of Appeal upheld the employment tribunal's conclusion that the dismissal was fair because of the risk of reputational damage and a breakdown of trust and confidence (falling under the heading ‘some other substantial reason' for dismissal). Ofcom had investigated fairly, so far as it could, by pressing the CAIC for more information (which was not forthcoming). The EAT and Court of Appeal commented that using ‘breakdown of trust and confidence' as a reason should not be a ‘solvent of obligations' to act fairly and follow the disciplinary procedure where appropriate.
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