A man serving a 12-year term of imprisonment in Cambodia for sex offences against children has had his arguments that he was wrongfully and unfairly dismissed from his employment on the basis of a mere suspicion rejected by the Court of Appeal.
Although the appellant was dismissed prior to his conviction in Cambodia, his employers could not ignore a warning give to them by the Metropolitan Police that he posed a continuing potential threat to children, the court ruled.
The appellant, who worked for communications regulator, Ofcom, had argued that it was ‘unprecedented’ for an employee to be dismissed on the basis of alleged, but at the time unproven, offences.
Describing the case as ‘out of the ordinary’, Lord Justice Mummery said that the appellant had been an international policy adviser for Ofcom and his job entailed substantial international travel.
In 2005, before his employment by Ofcom, he had been arrested in Cambodia on suspicion of child abuse whilst doing voluntary work in an orphanage there.
Those allegations were considered by the Supreme Court of Cambodia but were in the event not pursued due to insufficient evidence. The appellant told Ofcom nothing about those events before taking up his post with the regulator.
In November 2007, the Metropolitan Police Child Abuse Investigation Command informed Ofcom that the appellant posed a continuing potential threat to children and that there was a risk of him being exposed in the media.
Ofcom convened an internal disciplinary hearing and, in January 2008, the appellant was summarily dismissed. The appellant’s claims of wrongful and unfair dismissal were dismissed by an employment tribunal and, latterly, by the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
He challenged those rulings at the Court of Appeal. However, dismissing his appeal, Lord Justice Mummery said that Ofcom had not sought to justify the appellant’s dismissal on the basis that he was in fact guilty of sex crimes against children.
Far from ‘reacting in knee jerk fashion’ to the police disclosures, Ofcom had sought clarification and confirmation of the allegations and gave the appellant a fair chance to put his case at the internal hearing before dismissing him.
The appellant had concealed from Ofcom that he had been before the Cambodian courts and that he had appeared in that country's press. The judge said that he had ‘abused the trust and confidence placed in him to a degree that was sufficiently serious to justify summary dismissal’.
Ofcom could not ‘simply ignore’ the police warning and the judge, sitting with Lords Justice Hooper and Pitchford, also rejected the appellant’s plea that his treatment had violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.