Solicitor claimant backtracks on request for male judge

CAB: Bias claim rejected

An employment tribunal has rejected claims of bias by a solicitor claimant who asked and then retracted a request to replace a female judge with a male one.

He said in a letter that he was “greatly concerned” that Employment Judge Grundy was “overtly sympathetic” to the allegations made against him by Bury and Bolton Citizens Advice Bureau “and the female staff members”.

The tribunal noted that Mr I Laing’s letter at different points asked for a different judge and a male judge.

“When asked about that in clarification by the employment judge [Judge Grundy], the claimant said it was an error despite the capitals underlined in the first paragraph.

“It is concerning that the claimant has re-iterated and then retracted the suggestion that he would wish the claims to be heard by a male employment judge.”

The tribunal was hearing a victimisation claim brought by Mr Laing, who had worked as an immigration adviser at the CAB.

It had previously ruled that it had no jurisdiction to hear his race and sex discrimination claims because he had not paid the £10 deposit required in each case.

It recorded that in a “lengthy letter” sent in February 2020 for the “urgent attention of the regional employment judge”, Mr Laing complained of “actual and apparent bias” by Judge Grundy.

However, the tribunal said it had “considered the real danger or possibility of bias and the matters relied upon by the claimant, and has gone through those circumstances with a fine toothcomb”.

It went on: “The tribunal does not accept that the test is satisfied in terms of the informed observer concluding there is a real possibility of bias by the judge.

“The tribunal has acted transparently and openly, engaged in a dialogue with the claimant, given him leeway in his oral evidence which is still continuing and made tripartite decisions on a unanimous basis.

“In those circumstances the application for recusal is dismissed and the case will continue.”

Mr Laing also asked for a review of the decision not to hear his race and sex discrimination claims on the grounds of his failure to pay a deposit in each case.

Referring to £10 as an “extremely small” amount, the tribunal said: “The claimant is a qualified solicitor, although not practising, and he has been employed as an immigration advisor in his last post.

“He is articulate and intelligent. He has at no time previously sought an extension of time to pay.

“He had the clear information attached to the notice of payment of a deposit and the tribunal has looked at this new reason and does not find it a compelling reason to alter its previous decision.”

Mr Laing also asked in his letter of February 2020 for a review of a decision not to make witness orders requiring the attendance of the CAB’s witnesses.

The tribunal dismissed this, having already given its reasons, along with a request to summon a further witness, who declined to give evidence in person for “personal reasons” and said he “had very little interaction” with Mr Laing.

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