DPP Law Ltd v Greenberg [2021] EWCA Civ 672

Appeal against an EAT judgment which overturned an ET decision that the original claimant in unfair dismissal proceedings had been fairly dismissed. Appeal allowed.

The original claimant was dismissed for what DPP Law, the employer, alleged to be gross misconduct arising from his acceptance of a payment of £150 from the father of one of his legally aided clients, on the ground that this constituted a "topping up" of the sums due to the company from the Legal Aid Authority ("LAA") which was forbidden by the terms of the company's legal aid contract. The ET rejected his claim for unfair dismissal. The EAT allowed his appeal on the basis that the ET Judge's finding that DPP Law had reasonable grounds for its belief in the claimant's misconduct was not sufficiently "rooted in findings of fact" about the process of reasoning for the dismissal in the minds of those who took the decision; and that the ET Judge had made a substitution error of law, substituting her own view of the evidence as sufficient to justify dismissal, rather than addressing whether the relevant persons at DPP Law had reasonable grounds for their belief in his misconduct when dismissing the claimant. DPP Law appealed to the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal. It was the EAT Judge, not the ET Judge who fell into error in this case. He was too ready to find an error of law because he failed to adopt the proper approach of an appellate tribunal to findings by an ET: his decision was not based on a fair reading of the ET decision as a whole; it failed to recognise the findings the ET Judge had made on such a fair reading; it failed to recognise that the decision did not need to contain more specific reasoning or findings of fact provided it was Meek compliant, which was not challenged; and it failed to recognise that the absence of such further findings could not justify a conclusion that there was no evidence of any such reasoning or that it had not been in the ET Judge's mind.

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Published: 19/05/2021 11:08