Dawsons wins record payout from News of the World on bullying claim

The firm instructed Littleton Chambers barrister Matthew Sheridan to represent claimant Matt Driscoll against Coulson, who now works as head of communications for Conservative leader David Cameron.

Dawsons employment partner Jo Keddie took over the case in its closing stages after her colleague Jill Andrew, who had been advising Driscoll, left for Marriott Harrison last month.

Clarkslegal partner Helen Beech instructed Simon Cheetham of Ely Place Chambers to act for the respondent.

Driscoll, who had worked at the paper since 1997, went on long-term sick leave for stress-related depression in July 2006 before being sacked in April 2007.

In 2008, an employment tribunal found that Driscoll’s dismissal from the newspaper was “a direct act of disability discrimination” on the part of News Group Newspapers (NPN).

His award of almost £800,000 is thought to be the largest of its kind in the media sector, with the bill for News International, which owns the News of the World, potentially rising to more than £1m.

The paper claimed the main reason for Driscoll’s dismissal was his lack of capability or qualifications for performing his work, but Coulson was found to have written an email to deputy editor Neil Wallis in which he said he wanted the reporter “out as quickly and cheaply as possible”.

Keddie commented: “This is an exceptionally high award from an employment tribunal claim for a disability and unfair dismissal claim. While tribunals cannot make punitive awards against employers, they do try to compensate employees for the losses they have suffered as a result of employers’ unlawful acts.

“The tribunal found that Mr Driscoll’s career was unlikely to again reach the heights it had reached at News of the Worldand it has compensated him accordingly.

“Unusually, the tribunal also made an award of £10,000 for aggravated damages against News Group Newspapers in respect of what it found was its “high handed and oppressive manner” in dealing with Mr Driscoll.”