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An employment tribunal (ET) accused by a lay representative of being racist has had its wrists slapped by the Court of Appeal
After Errol Harry, a regular representative in the ET, accused the panel of racism, the tribunal decided to recuse (refuse to hear) the case, labelling the accusations as "scandalous". But last week the Appeal Court ruled that the ET was wrong. Lord Justice Ward said: "In getting on their high horse, [the ET] fell off the judgement seat. This case fills me with despair." Lay representatives are commonplace in ETs and have been criticised in the past, but employment lawyers had never heard such a tirade against them from a court or a judiciary. Lord Justice Sedley said last week: "A further look may need to be taken at the power (or impotence as it at present seems to be) of ETs to shut out representatives whose behaviour jeopardises clients' cases and the proper functioning [of ETs]." The court also called for local authorities to review how they ensure that discipline is maintained among lay representatives in the ET. Daniel Barnett, an employment barrister at 2 Gray's Inn Square, said: "It's time the Government changed the law so tribunals can order both legal and unqualified representatives to pay costs if they conduct cases improperly." The case, brought by dismissed care manager Carla Bennett against her former employer the London Borough of Southwark, was referred post-recusal to another ET, which threw out Bennett's race discrimination claim against Southwark. Following the Court of App-eal's decision, the case will now be referred to another ET.