Posted on April 15, 2010

A Tale of Two Payouts: Now Single Mother Who Couldn’t Sort Out Childcare Demands £1.1m

Michael Seamark, Daily Mail (London), April 15, 2010

One is a soldier who suffered 37 separate injuries in a landmine blast and was offered a paltry £152,000.

The other is a woman who won a controversial sex discrimination claim over Army childcare and now wants an extraordinary £1.14million in compensation.

Last night there was a storm of protest over the iniquity of the very different handling of their two cases. The amount being demanded by Tilern DeBique is seven times that originally offered to severely-wounded paratrooper Ben Parkinson.

He lost both his legs and suffered severe brain injuries.

The full extent of Miss DeBique’s claim emerged at an employment tribunal–after the single mother successfully argued she was forced to choose between a military career and caring for her four-year-old daughter.

The £1,142,257 total includes £473,535 for loss of earnings, £325,160 for loss of Army benefits, £315,562 for loss of pension rights, £18,000 for ‘hurt feelings’ and £10,000 in aggravated damages.

Mr Parkinson’s mother, Diane Dernie, said: ‘I was forced out of my job to look after my child and I got nothing.’

Her son was initially offered £152,000 but was eventually awarded £570,000 compensation–but only after the Goverment caved in to public outrage.

Mrs Dernie added: ‘I can’t see how Ben and all these other boys’ lives are worth so much less. These soldiers have done their duty, they have done their job but their careers are over. This woman can get another job but for Ben, that’s it–for life.’

Lord Guthrie, former Chief of Defence Staff, described Miss DeBique’s compensation claim as a ‘crazy and highly unrealistic amount of money’. He added: ‘I think in comparison with soldiers who put their lives on the line, their widows and those who are wounded, it’s indecent.’

General Sir Mike Jackson, former Chief of the General Staff and head of the Army during the Iraq invasion, called the amount ‘an extraordinary figure’.

Miss DeBique, 28, who calls herself SexyT on her MySpace webpage, admits turning down a UK posting with childcare facilities and applying for civilian jobs in Afghanistan before leaving the Army.

She quit her job as a technician in the 10th Signal Regiment in April 2008 after being disciplined for failing to appear on parade because of childcare difficulties for her daughter Tahlia, now four.

Besides winning her landmark sex discrimination case Miss DeBique also won a claim for race discrimination because Army chiefs did not let her bring her half-sister from the Caribbean–where she was recruited–to look after her child.

Her victory left senior officers facing the nightmare task of having to consider soldiers’ childcare problems before giving them orders.

She is claiming over £;1.14million because she argues that she would have stayed in the Army until 2023, instead of being forced to quit her £30,341-a-year job after seven years of service.

The MoD’s barrister Keith Morton branded her compensation claim ‘ perverse’ and said it was ‘unreasonable’ for Miss DeBique to have turned down a posting that offered childcare while applying for lucrative civilian jobs in Afghanistan.

She was offered a ‘unique’ five-year non-deployable posting to Blandford Army garrison in Dorset, which had childcare facilities, in 2007.

Miss DeBique says she felt unable to accept the posting because she only had four days to make a decision and because of the Army’s previous failure to address her childcare needs and instead, handed in her year’s notice in April 2007.

Miss Debique, who lives in Tooting, South West London, quit when she was disciplined for failing to be available for duty around the clock. Her commanding officer told her the Army was ‘unsuitable for a single mother who couldn’t sort out her childcare arrangements’.

The Central London Employment Tribunal panel is due to announce its compensation award tomorrow.