Times (London), May 25, 2006
A member of the British National Party is facing a legal bill of thousands of pounds after the Court of Appeal ruled he could not bring a race discrimination claim against a bus company for sacking him on “health and safety grounds”.
The court found in favour of Serco, the company which runs West Yorkshire Transport Service, where Arthur Redfearn was employed as a bus driver.
Serco sacked Mr Redfearn after he was elected as a BNP councillor on Bradford City Council, claiming he posed a safety risk as its buses could be targeted by people opposed to the BNP.
The Court of Appeal today allowed Serco’s challenge against an Employment Appeal Tribunal decision that Mr Redfearn did have grounds for claiming racial discrimination over his dismissal.
Chris Hyman, chief executive of Serco, said: “Mr Redfearn was dismissed because of the potential threat his public support for BNP policies posed to the well-being of our clients and our employees.
“The idea that we breached the Race Relations Act by dismissing Mr Redfearn was, frankly, ridiculous. We are grateful to the judges for their clear and unambiguous ruling.”
Mr Redfearn was employed by Serco from December 2003, first as a bus driver’s escort and then as a driver, transporting vulnerable adults and children to schools and day centres.
He was dismissed in June 2004 soon after being elected to Bradford City Council. His lawyers said “health and safety” was being used as “a smokescreen” to cover up the fact that Mr Redfearn, a first-class employee who did not bring his politics into work, was being discriminated against on grounds of his race.
But Serco said it had acted because their staff and customers could be at risk. The Employment Appeal Tribunal had overruled an initial ruling by Leeds Employment Tribunal rejecting Mr Redfearn’s claim. It ordered a fresh hearing before another tribunal.
But appeal judges Lord Justice Mummery, sitting with Lord Justice Dyson and Sir Martin Nourse, said the Employment Appeal Tribunal had got the law wrong and restored the Leeds tribunal decision.
Allowing the Serco appeal, the judges ordered Mr Redfearn to pay the company’s legal costs. Lord Justice Mummery ruled against the argument that Mr Redfearn should not have to pay costs as today’s appeal had been a test case on the Race Relations Act.
The court was also asked to take into account that Mr Redfearn had lost his BNP seat in the local elections earlier this month and only had savings of £1,000. He had also lost his job and was unlikely to get work as a driver in the Bradford area again.
Mr Redfearn was refused permission to appeal to the House of Lords, but can still petition the law lords directly to hear his case on the basis that it raises issues of general public importance.