Army legal services colonel wins in tribunal against MoD

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) unlawfully discriminated against a female legal officer by banning her from taking up a part-time judicial appointment because of her rank, an employment tribunal has ruled.

Lieutenant Colonel Linda McGarr applied for an appointment as a legally-qualified part-time member of an Appeals Tribunal in July 2001. The Army told her that policy confined eligibility for part-time judicial appointments to colonels and above.

In July 2002, the policy was amended to allow officers of McGarr’s rank to undertake part-time positions during leave periods. McGarr accepted an appointment to the South East region in May 2003.

However, she claimed the MoD’s policy affected women’s career opportunities more than men’s, because there has never previously been a female colonel in Army Legal Services. The tribunal agreed, saying: “The respondent’s objections to permitting officers below colonel to undertake judicial duties have as much to do with issues relating to rank and status within the Army as with operational effectiveness.”

Julie Mellor, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), said: “Hopefully the Army will open up the opportunity to undertake judicial appointments to more junior ranks than colonel.”

Jacques Algazy of Cloisters Chambers was instructed by the EOC for McGarr.