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Is Witness Intimidation Really Legal During Employment Tribunal Proceedings?

Artresssa Phunding | 24.06.2007 21:05 | Education | Repression | Workers' Movements | London | World

The Crown Prosecution Service has taken up and immediately dropped a case of alleged witness intimidation against high level officials at Kingston University on the grounds that no crime had taken place, since the acts occurred in connection with Employment Tribunal proceedings. Can it really be the case that Witness Intimidation is, in effect, perfectly legal when it occurs against parties to an Employment Tribunal? Could Parliament really have meant for it to be that way when they wrote the Criminal Justice and Police Act of 2001?

The extraordinary and unprecedented Criminal Witness Intimidation case against Donald
Beaton, University Secretary, and Peter Scott, Vice-Chancellor of Kingston University has been squashed by the Richmond Upon Thames Crown Prosecution Service, after they took over the case from the alleged victims, who had originally launched a private prosecution before the Court in April 2007.

On June 22 20007 in a hearing before the Richmond Magistrates' Court, charges were formally dropped by the CPS against the defendants on the grounds that Witness Intimidation, when it takes place against witnesses in an Employment Tribunal is, in effect, perfectly legal. According to the CPS, Employment Tribunal's do not constitute "relevant proceedings" under the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, and therefore, there is insufficient evidence of a crime having been committed.

According to the terms of the indictment of 20 April 2007, as set forth in a written complaint by the alleged victims, Dr and Mrs Howard Fredrics of Hampton Wick, Surrey and their solicitor, Mr Dominic Tomkins, of Russell-Cooke Solicitors, Mr Beaton wrote a series of at least five threatening and intimidating letters between January and March of 2007, alleging that the Fredrics' and their solicitor committed crimes in the collection of relevant evidence in Dr Fredrics' ongoing Employment Tribunal action against the University, and threatening to both report them to the Information Commissioner for criminal prosecution, as well as to obtain legal costs in enforcing an order to turn over the evidence to the University. These allegations later proved to have no reasonable basis whatsoever in law and neither threat was ultimately carried out.

What apparently triggered the allegedly intimidating letters, was a January 13 2007 letter from the Fredrics' solicitors, in which they informed Mr Beaton and the University that Mrs Fredrics had legally and lawfully recorded an internal grievance appeal proceeding, (along with two brief tea breaks), held before a panel of Board of Governors, and that this recording revealed that the panel had allegedly engaged in improper and unfair discussions with the Vice-Chancellor during a break in the proceedings, thereby suggesting that the grievance appeal process was not being carried out fairly and impartially and that the Board had unduly prejudged the case. Mr Beaton then allegedly ordered them to turn over all existing copies of the recordings and transcripts thereof, not merely a single copy, thereby raising the question as to why this was done. Was it because the University wanted to suppress this evidence from coming to light during an ongoing Employment Tribunal proceeding, which is currently scheduled for full hearing in November 2007?

According to Dr and Mrs Fredrics, additional evidence has since emerged that suggests that the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Peter Scott was also aware of and/or ordered Mr Beaton to write the allegedly threatening and intimidating letters in order to avoid embarassment over the contents of the recording.

Why is it that the CPS decided to squash this criminal case rather than allowing it to go before a Court for a full hearing on its merits as a private prosecution by Dr and Mrs Fredrics? After all, a panel of three Magistrates apparently felt that there was enough evidence to issue an indictment of Mr Beaton on 20 April 2007 and found no problem with the way the statute was written, nor with its apparently abundandantly clear meaning.

IF this decision by the CPS is allowed to stand, will it become, in effect, perfectly legal to intimidate
witnesses in Employment Tribunal proceedings? Could that have REALLY been the intention of Parliament when it passed the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001? And did the CPS then hold the view that Witness Intimidation, when it occurs in an Employment Tribunal, is and should be considered to be, in effect, perfectly legal?

Or was this merely a case of the powerful protecting the more powerful? After all, Prof Scott, who was recently nominated for a Knighthood by the Prime Minister, is supposed to be a close advisor to the PM on post-'92 HE issues, and he is said to hold regular meetings with the PM at his 10 Downing Street office.

And Colin Watts, now former Personnel Director and Director of Development at St George's NHS Trust, who was one of the Kingston University Board members in attendance at Dr Fredrics' November 2006 hearing, was also a central figure in the seminal Perkin v St George's NHS Trust Case in which Mr Perkin was found to have been unfairly dismissed, but all damages were reduced from his award because of Mr Perkin's supposedly difficult personality and his alleged improper behavior during his disciplinary hearing, which constituted "contributary fault" equal to 100% of the damage award.

According to Mr Perkin, there was no basis for these claims by St Georges -- after all, he had been there for over 17 years as their Chief Finance Officer with no complaints against him. But when he refused to fudge the cancelled operations statistics, he was then summarily sacked from his job and subjected to a "frame-up." Similar issues of whistleblowing are alleged by Dr Fredrics in his case, along with disability discrimination.

Dr and Mrs Fredrics have received advice that they might now pursue their criminal complaint in a higher court. They are currently weighing their options and will shortly announce their plans for taking further action to ensure that the law is fully implemented, in accordance with their view of Parliament's intentions, which they believe was to regard witness intimidation as a criminal offence in all legal proceedings, including Employment Tribunal cases, and that the omission of a reference to Employment Tribunal proceedings was merely inadvertent, rather than being reflective of their intent to allow witness intimidation in such proceedings..

For further details on this unusual groundbreaking
case, including copies of key relevant documentary evidence, visit the websites:

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