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AN "intimidating" partner in a law firm, who would lose his temper if his morning coffee was late, overloaded his secretary with work to force her to resign, an industrial tribunal heard.
Nicolas Bellord, partner with church and charity lawyers Witham Weld, was described as a "bully" by legal secretary June Hedley, who represented herself at the hearing.
The tribunal ruled that Hedley, who claimed she was sacked in April after taking up pay and conditions issues on behalf of other staff, had been unfairly dismissed. The secretary, who had been employed at the firm for nearly 20 years, said her redundancy was due to personality clashes with Bellord and the office manager Peter Kenward. They tried to over-burden her with work in a bid to make her give up her job, she said.
In a statement, Hedley said fee-earners in Bellord's office would be on "tenterhooks" until she arrived with his coffee. "He would also have explosive outbursts if I had not done his filing on a Wednesday," she said.
The firm, which acts for Catholic Church figures, said personalities played no part in the decision. Partner Alexa Beale, representing it at the Croydon tribunal, said Hedley was selected for redundancy because one fee-earner for whom she worked was leaving and two others were "winding down".
But solicitor Sebastian Wilberforce, who once worked at Witham Weld, said Bellord was "not an easy man to reason with". He was intimidating and had a tendency to shout about his coffee, he said.
Hedley, who was awarded u14,262, said after the hearing: "I'm not worried about the compensation, it's the principle that counts. Some solicitors' firms get away with far too much because they know the law inside out. It's about time someone stood up to them." The firm will appeal.