Murphy vs Police Service of Northern

CourtFair Employment Tribunal (NI)
Judgment Date20 June 2007
Docket Number00012/05FET
RespondentPolice Service of Northern


CASE REF: 12/05FET; 84/05

CLAIMANT: Stephen Murphy

RESPONDENT: Police Service of Northern Ireland


The Tribunal finds that the claimant suffered religious discrimination, had his contract of employment breached and was unfairly dismissed. The Tribunal orders re-engagement by 16 July 2007 and awards compensation for religious discrimination of £44,723.62.

Constitution of Tribunal

Chairman: Mr B Greene

Members: Mrs S Butcher

Mr J Crockett

Appearances: The claimant appeared in person. The respondent was neither in attendance nor represented.

Sources of Evidence

1. The Tribunal heard evidence from the claimant and his witnesses, Lindsay Mary Catherine Murphy (the claimant’s wife), Mervyn Storey MLA, Ian Paisley Jnr MLA and Wendy Elizabeth McGrath of Harbinson Mulholland forensic accountants. The Tribunal also received seven bundles of documents and two letters amounting to two hundred and thirty-eight pages.

The Claim and Defence

2. The claimant claimed unfair dismissal, breach of contract and religious/political discrimination. The respondent did not enter a Notice of Appearance. The respondent did not attend the hearing.

The Tribunal was satisfied that the respondent had been notified of the hearing and decided to consider the matter in the absence of the respondent.

The Issues

3. The issues for determination were;-

(i) Whether the claimant was discriminated against on the grounds of his religious belief/political opinion while employed by the respondent.

(ii) Whether the claimant was unfairly dismissed.

(iii) Whether the claimant’s contract of employment was breached.

(iv) Should the claimant succeed in any or all of his claims, to establish the appropriate remedy?

Findings of Fact

4. (i) The respondent’s predecessor, the RUC, employed the claimant from 1989 to 5 September 1991. From 6 September 1991 to 31 August 1998 the claimant was seconded to the Forensic Science Agency. On 1 September 1998 the claimant returned to work for the RUC, which subsequently became the PSNI, and was employed by the respondent until 8 October 2004.

(ii) The claimant worked as a civilian photographer and from 1998 was based at Knocknagoney police station. The claimant was subject to the police authorities at Knocknagoney.

(iii) At Knocknagoney PSNI station Inspector F was in charge. Also stationed there was Acting Sergeant (A/Sgt) K.

(iv) In 2000 the claimant developed a SICAR project for the respondent, whereby photographic services would be carried out within the respondent and not contracted out, thereby saving money from the respondent’s budget. The respondent was very pleased with this development and the claimant’s contribution was acknowledged by his superiors within the respondent and he headed the SICAR project.

(v) In early 2001 the claimant returned from leave and was advised by A/Sgt K that Inspector F had removed the claimant from SICAR duties and he would return to other duties. No discussion had taken place with the claimant about this change. Despite many requests Inspector F refused to discuss the matter with the claimant citing pressure of other work as the reason. He eventually promised to discuss this at the claimant’s annual appraisal.

(vi) The claimant’s appraisal took place around March 2001. Inspector F was the appraiser. Inspector F arrived at the appraisal meeting with the claimant’s objectives already decided by him without any consultation with the claimant. The claimant felt that the form prepared by Inspector F did not reflect his achievements and had excluded any mention of the SICAR project or that he had fulfilled all his previously agreed objectives. Inspector F gave the claimant a box two mark, a reduction from his previous box five mark, without explanation.

Inspector F refused to discuss the claimant’s expressed reservations about the appraisal and asked the claimant to sign the appraisal. The claimant refused to sign it, indicated he would do a detailed report to go with his annual report and lodge a complaint about Inspector F’s handling of the appraisal. Inspector F said he would change the mark to a box five and amend the appraisal to a true representation of the claimant’s year’s work and asked the claimant not to lodge a complaint. The claimant replied he would reflect on it. The appraisal was never completed and the claimant did not lodge a complaint.

Though procedure within the respondent required every employee to have a counter-signing officer to whom an employee could go for advice the claimant’s appraiser and countersigning-officer was Inspector F. This was also true for other employees.

(vii) A short time after the appraisal another police officer warned the claimant, confidentially, that he had been present at a discussion between Inspector F and A/Sgt K at which Inspector F stated to A/Sgt K that they had to make life as difficult as possible for the claimant and to get him out of the organisation or to get him to resign as he was intending to marry a Catholic.

(viii) The claimant is a Presbyterian and at that time was engaged to be married to a Catholic.

(ix) Initially the claimant could not believe this and asked for a meeting with Inspector F who was too busy to meet him.

(x) The claimant’s hours of work were Monday to Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm but he was expected to work late, if necessary. If a photographer worked late he was permitted to come into work late the next day up to 11.00am. Subsequently the claimant was out late at a crime scene to 5.00am but when he reported for work the next day after 9.00am A/Sgt K reprimanded him and warned him that should he be late again he would put him on a charge, despite the claimant’s remonstration that what he had done was permitted.

(xi) A/Sgt K allocated the overtime which was to be divided among the photographers on a fair basis. During July and August 2001 the claimant was regularly given mid-week overtime which necessitated him working until 3.00am or 4.00am but he always reported for work the next day at 9.00am. The claimant’s week-end overtime which was paid at time and a half (Saturday) and double time (Sunday) was reduced.

On one occasion A/Sgt K asked Mr G, another civilian photographer if he would do mid-week overtime. The latter replied that he could not do so as it did not suit him. A/Sgt K allocated it to the claimant. When the claimant protested that it did not suit him he was told by A/Sgt K to do it.

(xii) A/Sgt K put pressure on the claimant to do more jobs than others in different parts of Northern Ireland and to complete them before 5.00pm. On one such occasion when pressure was put on the claimant to do extra jobs he returned to base to find that there had been just two jobs to be done that afternoon and there were five photographers available at base.

(xiii) At this time Inspector F and A/Sgt K ceased all unnecessary communication with the claimant.

(xiv) At the direction of Inspector F, invitations to the claimant to photographic events connected with his work, were allocated to other photographers. Some of the mail addressed to him had been opened. When the claimant challenged Inspector F about this he said he would not comment. He said it was nothing to do with the claimant.

(xv) Professor Crane, the State Pathologist, sent a wedding-gift, by post, to the claimant at Knocknagoney police station towards the end of 2001 but he never received it.

A/Sgt K and others made derogatory remarks about the claimant’s fiance including referring to her as “a whore”. Other staff members made bigoted remarks. Some of the remarks were why was he dating someone from South Armagh or how could he be trusted by his colleagues? These type of remarks were made in the presence of A/Sgt...

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