This case considered whether an employee could be disciplined twice for the same offence.
The key facts are as follows:
- Ms Christou and Ms Ward (‘the employees’) were social workers employed by the local authority for Haringey.
- They were, amongst others, responsible for the care of Baby P.
- Under the initial simple disciplinary orocedure carried out by the local authority they were both given written warnings.
- Following the conviction over Baby P’s death a reinvestigation was undertaken which led to the employees then being summarily dismissed.
An employment tribunal found the dismissals to be fair and the employees appealed.
The EAT dismissed the appeal on the basis that there was no rule of law stating that a second set of disciplinary proceedings on the same facts was unfair. They considered the principle of Res Judicata (i.e. being tried for the same crime twice) and found that it did not apply.
The EAT did warn however, that the Tribunal had come to their conclusion based upon the fact that new management had re-investigated and found the circumstances to be much more serious that initially considered and that for an employer to embark upon “second disciplinary proceedings on the same facts are likely to be extremely rare”.
Key Point – Although on the face of it, this decision supports employees being disciplined twice for the same set of facts, employers should treat this with caution. As stressed by the EAT, circumstances upon which an employer can discipline their employees more than once for the same set of facts will be extremely rare. Employers should be aware of this fact and ensure that the appropriate disciplinary procedure and sanction has been used first time round.
Christou and another v London Borough of Haringey (2011)