A former Senior Crown Prosecutor has missed his chance to sue the CPS for wrong dismissal after making his claim months too late. Brendan Woodward, a solicitor who had worked for the CPS (and its statutory predecessor) for 21 years before he was sacked in December 2017, took more than a year to present his claim.
Employment Judge Traylor, sitting at the Hull tribunal, said Woodward should be allowed on health grounds to extend the usual deadline of claiming within three months of termination of employment.
But while Woodward continued to suffer some medical problems during the subsequent months, the judge ruled he could easily have found out about rules on deadlines, adding that ‘on balance he was ignorant of the time limits but not reasonably so’.
The claimant, 66, was dismissed after it was alleged that he failed to disclose to the CPS that a County Court judgment had been entered against him. The tribunal heard that Woodward disclosed the information only once the judgment had been set aside and the action against him discontinued. The solicitor alleged the CPS investigation into his conduct was not reasonable and he sought payment for his notice period.
The judge stressed this ruling was not concerned with the dismissal itself, but only how the employment claim was made.
Within weeks of his dismissal, the tribunal heard Woodward was admitted to hospital for abdominal surgery. It was not until mid-March that he was discharged from hospital – in theory with days to go before his claim should be made.
Judge Traylor accepted it had not been reasonably practicable to make a claim within the three-month period, but said Woodward's condition had improved sufficiently by the summer. By June, Woodward had emailed his former employer with detailed information about his recovery. By November, the CPS had written to Woodward pointing out that 10 months had elapsed and that a decision whether to appeal his dismissal could not be left open indefinitely.
Soon afterwards he did appeal, unsuccessfully. Woodward insisted he believed he had three months from that point to bring a complaint. The claim was finally brought in February 2019.
Judge Traylor accepted Woodward was not an expert in employment law but said as a solicitor he should know the importance of court deadlines. ‘He knew that legal processes often are subject to time limits,’ said the judge. ‘He could easily have found out by seeking advice, as he subsequently did, much sooner.’
The claim was dismissed on the basis the tribunal had no jurisdiction to hear it.