MOD lose right to have employment cases held in private

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) reported on 8 September 2009 that organisations such as the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and Foreign Office will no longer be able to automatically rely on national security arguments to ensure that employment tribunal cases are heard in private after a ruling by the Employment Appeals Tribunal in AB v Ministry of Defence [2009] UKEAT/0101/09/DM.

A serving member of the armed forces claimed he was subjected to discrimination and physical and verbal racial abuse from colleagues while serving in Afghanistan as a member of a specialist unit in 2007. He took action against his employer, the MOD. The MOD, however, responded by making a successful application for the case to be heard in private, due to issues of national security. The claimant challenged this decision on the grounds that it disproportionately interfered with his right to a fair hearing, under art 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms as incorporated into United Kingdom Domestic Law under section 1 and Schedule 1 Human Rights Act 1998.

The Appeals Tribunal recommended that part of the hearing should be held in public but held that part will be held in private. Justice Underhill said that it was 'expedient' that any part of the hearing dealing with the issues in Afghanistan be heard in private as there was 'a real risk to operations carried out'. However, the part of the complaint dealing with the matters in the UK 'if it can be practically dealt with in public should be'. The Appeals Tribunal also held that how the armed forces handled complaints of discrimination should be in public.
Interesting Iolis - in a week when the thinning out of pers is in the headlines, is it reasonable to suggest that this ruling comes at a sensitive time for the MOD? My reasoning being that of the 6000 figure mentioned this week, that a good number of them will be considering descrimination cases relating to their exit from service life.

Sounds like a dirty linen charter that will lead to some strong headlines in the coming years.

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