A barrister employed by HM Courts and Tribunal Service has lost a claim that he was racially discriminated against by being moved to another court ‘under a cloud’.
Appealing an employment tribunal ruling, Haras Ahmed alleged racial discrimination after he was targeted in an investigation into fraud at the magistrates' court where he was working.
Ahmed managed the legal team at Waltham Forest and Redbridge Magistrates' Court, and came under suspicion after an administrative officer at the court, Munir Patel, was found to have been taking bribes in return for not reporting speeding fines and penalty points. Patel was the first person to be convicted under the Bribery Act.
Although an investigation found no evidence to connect Ahmed to the fraud, the head of the Ministry of Justice’s fraud team, Pamela Smith, continued to hold suspicions against him, which the employment tribunal said it believed was by then based on his shared ethnicity with Patel.
Senior management, meanwhile, moved Ahmed to another court in Stratford after the investigation revealed that he had failed to complete audit checks on files.
He later found an email with the subject line ‘Personal Protect. Absolutely not to be forwarded. Burn after reading’ that suggested he should be ‘coached and monitored’ by his new line manager, which he took to show there was a ‘pre-planned agenda’.
He submitted a formal grievance and later resigned after his complaint was upheld only in part. He subsequently claimed unfair dismissal.
In March last year an employment tribunal ruled that he had been treated less favourably because of his race in connection to the move, but found that his claim had been lodged too late. It also ruled against Ahmed on his further claims of race discrimination, harassment and victimisation.
Ahmed appealed the employment tribunal’s rulings, saying it had ‘erred in law’ for finding that he had submitted his claim out of time and declining to extend time and in its findings against his other claims.
But Judge David Richardson dismissed his appeal. He also found there was a ‘significant error in law’ with the employment tribunal’s conclusion that race discrimination had contributed to Ahmed's move to another court.
He said the senior manager’s decision to move Ahmed was based on his failure to complete audit checks, rather than based on Smith’s continued suspicions, and that the employment tribunal had therefore applied the wrong legal test.