Barrister awarded £136,000 for CPS disability discrimination

CPS: Training review for managers involved in case

A disabled former senior prosecutor has been awarded damages of nearly £136,000 for discrimination suffered at the hands of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

This was primarily made up of past financial losses and injury to feelings, as well as psychiatric injury.

In late 2021, an employment tribunal found that the CPS failed to allow Tarique Mohammed to work from home or return home early to take medication for a heart condition. The CPS admitted discriminating against him.

But the tribunal rejected his complaints of disability-related harassment and victimisation, along with further complaints of discrimination.

Employment Judge Hawksworth acknowledged that Mr Mohammed “clearly has genuine reason to be aggrieved about his treatment. Significant elements of his grievance complaint were upheld”.

However, the incidents of harassment and victimisation about which Mr Mohammed complained were unrelated to his disability, “or were caused or aggravated by the claimant over-reacting, being confrontational in approach or being defensive in response to errors by him” or in responding to “genuine concerns” about his performance.

The remedy ruling published last week said the CPS admitted that it failed to make reasonable adjustments from September 2015.

Mr Mohammed initially remained at work on full pay at that time but began a period of sick leave in April 2016 that lasted for nearly two and a half years.

While there were other reasons for him going on sick leave, the tribunal said it could not separate out the harm for which the CPS was responsible.

It also considered what would have happened if the discrimination had not happened, given the barrister’s “pre-existing vulnerability”.

The tribunal concluded there was a 20% chance that Mr Mohammed would have gone on sick leave in 2016 anyway.

“We think it is likely that the claimant would have had an anxiety/depression condition during this period in any event, but we have decided that there is a good chance that it could have been managed such that he was able to continue working, had it not been for the discrimination.”

A further nine-month period of sick leave from July 2019 – between cardiac surgery and his dismissal – was unpaid because he was only entitled to a year of sick leave in a four-year rolling period; the 2016 sick leave meant that he had exhausted this.

Though the discrimination was not a material cause of the later sick leave, the loss of pay flowed from it because, but for the 2016 sick leave, Mr Mohammed would have had his full sick pay entitlement in 2019. The figure was again reduced by 20%.

The tribunal accepted medical evidence that the discrimination caused a psychiatric injury, namely the exacerbation of Mr Mohammed’s pre-existing depression.

On this occasion, it was divisible from the other causes because the doctor “identified the injury to the claimant which was specifically caused by the respondent’s discriminatory acts as a separate exacerbation injury”. He was award £8,000 plus interest for this.

In terms of injury to feelings, which it said was separate from the psychiatric injury, the tribunal said the discrimination made Mr Mohammed feel “unsupported and vulnerable, angry and upset”.

Awarding £16,800 plus interest, it went on: “We have found that he felt his disability was ignored and that he had to battle to explain it. We have also found that the failure to make reasonable adjustments and the removal of the claimant from court duties affected his self-confidence and self-belief.”

The tribunal rejected Mr Mohammed’s request that it prohibit the spread of gossip and rumour about his reputation as a court advocate relating to complaints made in November 2015, saying this could actually have an adverse effect.

“If we made the recommendation sought, then in order to act on it, the respondent would have to circulate information about the claimant, in order to make it known that discussion around it is prohibited.

“That seems likely to be counter-productive: if the respondent took this step now, it would be more likely to reactivate interest, and increase the spread of gossip and rumour than to decrease it.”

It also refused to recommend that the CPS should reinstate Mr Mohammed.

“In light of our findings about the claimant’s deep sense of injustice, his loss of faith in the respondent and the unsuccessful attempt to return to work in a new role in [CPS Direct], we do not consider that reinstatement or re-engagement would obviate or reduce the adverse effect on the claimant.”

A CPS investigation in 2017 had recommended management training and support for Mr Mohammed’s line manager.

The tribunal rejected his request that this happen, given the time that had passed, but said he “would be likely to derive some comfort from knowing that the respondent has given thought to whether appropriate training has been put in place for managers involved with these claims; this would reduce the adverse effect of the discrimination on him”.

It recommended that the CPS should review the training of the managers referred to in the liability ruling as having been involved with the case and who remained in its employ.

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