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Hell hath no fury, like a woman scorned!

It is common sense that parties should refrain from abusive and aggressive behaviour towards one another and the court during any litigation. And it is common knowledge that any form of unreasonable conduct may lead to courts penalising the party at fault. In some instances this can lead to credibility being called into question and/or increases in compensatory awards. However what are the consequences of a party being abusive to the judge?

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) recently dealt with this issue in Rowe v Halsall (t/a Malvern Nursing Home). The Employment Tribunal (ET) had dismissed all of Ms Rowe’s claims following a “turbulent hearing” where she accused the tribunal panel of being racist on the basis that she was of black origin. She adopted the same abusive and aggressive approach in the EAT. 

 Ms Rowe’s application and conduct

 Ms Rowe’s application for an appeal was rejected during the paper sift on the ground that she had not identified an error in law. Her application was to put further reasons forward as to why her appeal should be allowed to proceed. During the hearing she:

  1. Did not trust that he was working from the same bundle. To move matters forward the judge attempted to gain her trust by adjourning for a few minutes to allow her to examine his copy of the bundle, on return she threw the bundle at his bench with such force that his associate had to duck under the desk;
  2. Held up a number of documents from the back of the court without directing the judge to read a specific document;
  3. Used vile language;
  4. Accused the judge of having made up his mind.

 The judge warned her on a number of occasions about her conduct, allowed a number of adjournments to allow her to calm down and even reminded her that he had the power to send her to prison for contempt of a hearing. She threatened the judge that she would contact the police!

 Ms Rowe eventually walked out of the court room without identifying any errors of law or perversity by the ET.

 The judge dismissed MS Rowe’s appeal on two grounds:

  1. Her behaviour both at the ET and EAT makes it impossible to have a fair hearing.
  2. Her conduct during the proceedings together with her collateral purposes of  speaking to the press and further exposing her employer and the ET judge would amount to being an abuse of process of the EAT.

 Conclusion

 Whether you are representing or giving evidence at the ET or EATensure you remain courteous to the other party, their representative and the tribunal panels otherwise the tribunal may conclude that your conduct was such that it would make a fair hearing impossible.

 You must remember that the more credible you come across to the tribunal, the more likely your versions of events are going to be taken as fact. If you believe you cannot remain professional during the hearing than ensure that you instruct a legally qualified professional.

 As a final note you should never lose sight of the reasons for bringing a tribunal claim.  


Samira Cakali

Samira Cakali is a pragmatic and approachable solicitor advocate with extensive contentious and non-contentious experience in the fields of employment law as well as civil litigation, within a range of commercial businesses from SME’s to multinationals as well as senior executives.

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