Former CPS prosecutor brought unfair dismissal case ‘too late’

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A solicitor claiming for unfair dismissal against the Crown Prosecution Service has had her case dismissed after a judge ruled she had brought it too late.

The claimant, Ms Dillon, had been suffering with stress and had been off work between 28 January 2019, and her resignation that August. She reported symptoms of stress at work and raised a grievance through solicitors during her absence in April 2019.

She presented her claim to the employment tribunal in February 2020, five months after the effective termination of her employment.

The 64-year-old had begun working at the CPS in 1982, and had been a specialist prosecutor since 2003.

She did not decide to bring the claim for constructive unfair dismissal until finally seeing the grievance investigator’s report in January 2020 having been unhappy about the outcome of the grievance in November.

Ms Dillon applied for an exemption to the three-month time limit, arguing that it was not reasonably practicable for her to present her claim any earlier. She told the Midlands West tribunal that she had thought the deadline for an employment claim was three years because that was the limitation period for personal injury claim.

However, employment judge Woffenden dismissed the claim, saying she should have found out the time limit.

Dillon had visited her son in Barcelona for a week last year after receiving professional advice about her illness. A few weeks after this she held a meeting with a grievance investigator but was dissatisfied with this meeting’s outcome and asked for a copy of the investigator’s report.

Woffenden concluded there was no evidence of any change in Dillon’s condition during the primary three-month limitation period. She had previously been able to instruct solicitors, make travel arrangements to visit Spain, conduct the two-hour meeting and pursue disclosure of the investigator’s report.

The tribunal heard she had “naively” believed that the CPS would offer to reinstate her because she was a good prosecutor.

Woffenden, dismissing her claim, asked “why did she make no enquiries whatsoever either personally or of others immediately after her employment ended or indeed until after 18 January 2020 following the receipt of [the investigator’s] report?” He then suggested: “It was because it was only then that she turned her mind to taking proceedings against the respondent and sought advice.”

He said: “I am not satisfied that it was not reasonably practicable for the claim of unfair dismissal to have been presented in time because of her health, ignorance of time limits or the fact that she was awaiting the outcome and supporting documentation from her grievances whether considered individually or collectively.

“She left it over five months after her resignation to make any enquiries about her legal position, too late to present her claim in time.”

The judge added: “Although she was undoubtedly unwell and had been unwell for a long time, her ill health was not such that it was not reasonably practicable for her to present her claim within time.”

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