Decision: An employer did not renew an employee’s contract after it discovered allegations of serious sexual assault that had been made against him in a previous job, as well as complaints of a similar nature during his employment with the current employer. The employee had been dismissed from his previous employment at a college for gross misconduct following distribution of a photograph showing him simulating a sexual act with students. One of the students complained to the police of a serious sexual assault which was similar to the assault that had been reported to the current employer. After deciding on the fairness of the dismissal, the Employment Tribunal granted a permanent anonymity order. On appeal, the EAT set the order aside, finding that there was no legal basis for an anonymity order that lasted beyond the publication of the Tribunal’s decision. It considered the individual’s right to a private life but decided that a derogation from the principle of open justice could only be justified when strictly necessary to secure the proper administration of justice. In the EAT’s view, a permanent anonymity order was not necessary here as the public would be able to distinguish between an allegation and a finding of guilt. It also concluded that there was a public interest in naming the employee, so that other potential victims could come forward.
Impact: The decision shows the reluctance on the part of the courts to overturn the principle of open justice despite issues of a sensitive nature being made public. Employers should consider this emphasis in relation to any material made public in the claim form or its defence. It should be borne in mind that any information presented to the Tribunal could make its way into the public domain.
British Broadcasting Corporation v Roden