MARIETTA FARNSWORTH v DERBYSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL

THE COMPLAINANTS:

Jan Barber:
"Jan Barber, who might be described as one of the two principal witnesses, also made complaints that were very stale."

"That point by itself should have so undermined Jan Barber's credibility as a witness as to make it impossible to find her allegations, such as they were, proven."

"In addition to those two very obvious doubts about her credibility, her evidence that she had been deliberately frozen out by Mrs Farnsworth was contradicted by a substantial body of other evidence."

Karen Stephens:
"When Mrs Farnsworth resumed her duties on the 13th September, .... It was explained to Mrs Farnsworth by Ian McGregor, her immediate line manager, that her return to the centre meant that Karen Stephens would have to relinquish the 100 a week that she was enjoying while acting up...."

"On the 16th September, Karen Stephens made a complaint of bullying against Mrs Farnsworth...."

"Whilst Karen Stephens' complaints did relate to events within that 3 month period, virtually none of the other complaints which eventually surfaced with what appear to be some encouragement, did so."

"She did not attend the hearing and to the Respondent's (Derbyshire County Council) knowledge had disappeared, her house was shut up and her private life was known to be in disarray. She had been off sick and in receipt of sick pay, although Mr Rae was unable to tell us for certain whether her absence was still covered by sick notes at the date of the hearing."

"Yet Mr Murray felt able to draw the conclusion, based it would seem on nothing more than an assumption, that she was unable to attend the hearing because she was too ill to do so..."

"It has not taken more than a comparatively superficial analysis of the written witness statements to show that many of the complaints came out of a concerted attempt by those at the centre of this matter, Karen Stephens and Jan Barber, to find others to support them."

Teresa Oates:
"There are two matters of concern about Mr Rae's finding that Mrs Farnsworth "bullied and harassed Teresa Oates, one of the witnesses during the investigation". The first is that it is almost certain that Teresa Oates was not being truthful"

"The second difficulty with Teresa Oates' evidence is that, read on the cold page, it is at the best very ambiguous with nothing in the conversations which she records that is immediately obvious as a threat or bullying."

"No reasonable employer could have reached the conclusion that Teresa Oates had been harassed or bullied on the face of the evidence presented to Mr Rae."

Margaret John:
"A reading of Margaret John's evidence leaves one wondering how it was that she could ever have been regarded as a witness to anything, let alone to have been found by Mr Rae to have been "victimised, harassed and bullied throughout the period September 1997 to October 1999". Her written statement is mostly concerned with fairly minor matters which took place in 1996."

"...but which is central to the credibility of this witness, is that she was a close friend of Jan Barber..."

"Her complaint was only made after Jan Barber had complained and the only contemporaneous event about which a complaint is made was said to have taken place on 1st October, which was after disciplinary proceedings against Mrs Farnsworth had started."

"There is not a shred of evidence that Margaret John had ever been bullied or harassed by Mrs Farnsworth at any time during the relevant period, the matter complained of on the 1st October not being by any stretch of the imagination an act of bullying."

Andrew Slater
It was found that Mrs Farnsworth had dismissed Andrew Slater, an adult education tutor, from his paid employment without just cause or due process.

"He (Mr Rae) had to admit, however, that those conclusions were in flat contradiction to another piece of evidence which he gave. Mrs Farnsworth put forward as a written submission to the disciplinary hearing, a detailed explanation of the Andrew Slater matter. Mr Rae told us that he accepted that explanation in its entirety, apart from one small point, which was that Mars Farnsworth had raised her concerns about Mr Slater's qualifications to teach a particular course and explained how she was addressing the problem, with Mr McGregor. She claimed to have done so during supervision, a periodical meeting between a manager and that manager's senior."

"Mr Rae did not appear to think it advisable to check Mr McGregor's supervision notes."

"Mr Rae had to admit that had he accepted that one last point, Mrs Farnsworth's handling of the Andrew Slater matter would have been "exemplary". Even without it, he accepted that it was clear that she had very good grounds for acting as she had and he agreed that her evidence on this point which he did accept as truthful, demonstrated that she could not have been acting maliciously."

Christina Rose
The next complainant was Christina Rose. She had not worked at the centre since 1998 and had made no complaints during her employment. Mr Rae agreed that this was a borderline case but in attempting to explain why he eventually decided that she too had been bullied, in addition to citing the fact that it was Mr Murray's case that that was so, he also said that she impressed him as a witness."

"His (Mr Rae's) own note made at the end of Christina Rose's evidence strongly suggests that at the time, he took a somewhat different view."

"In other words lots of evidence that Mrs Farnsworth had supported Christina Rose. Finally: "Her letter to MF 24/7/98 is fairly damming - if she really had felt depressed would she had written it as she did"

"The letter of the 24th July 1998 was Christina Rose's letter of resignation. Not only is there not a hint in it of the allegation which she subsequently made, it is an extremely pleasant, cheerful letter which thanks Mrs Farnsworth for her support and looks forward to working with her again in the future. We still do not understand how an honest judge, having expressly found that there was no evidence to support the principle complaint, could, in the absence of any further evidence, have nonetheless come to the conclusion that the complainant's case was made out. But that is what Mr Rae purported to do."

Linda Gilbert
"Linda Gilbert was one of nine creche workers. Mr Rae saw a letter signed by all the other 8 creche workers which gave a very favourable opinion of Mrs Farnsworth's abilities as a manager and of her as a person."

"The decision by Mr Rae to uphold Linda Gibert's complaint can only be described as perverse."

Lynne Whittle
"Next is Lynne Whittle. No complaints were made by Lynne Whittle about the events of which she subsequently complained, at the time when they were supposed to have happened. It is again noteworthy that she worked closely with two other complainants, Margaret John and Jan Barber."

"We are unclear how Mr Rae was able to find Lynne Whittle's complaints proved if one takes away his usual responses about them falling into a pattern and they being part of Mr Murray's case and the powerful impression she made upon him when giving evidence to him. This latter observation would have been very persuasive but for the fact that he made it about all of the complainants indiscriminantly, irrespective of the obvious lack of merit in the complaints of the majority of them."


Read the full decision of the Employment Tribunal here: The Employment Tribunal Decision

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