Still supporting Chris!

I see that Betsan Powys, Miss Wagstaff and Valleys Mam have all flagged up the latest development in the Christopher Glamorgan saga.

Reading between the lines in the reports from the three ladies it appears that Christopher has had a preliminary hearing and that the preliminary hearing hasn't gone well for him. This is what Betsan says:

Solicitors acting for the government don't mince their words. In letters I've had sight of they sum up the conclusions of the Employment Judge (and bear in mind I'm quoting their own summing up here, not quotes from a transcript) like this:

the "claim has little reasonable prospect of success", the blog was "contrary to the civil service code" and "has the potential to cause an embarrassment to the Welsh Assembly Government", therefore breaking the code.

Had 'Christopher Glamorgan' been guilty of "excessive internet abuse and potential copyright infringement" alone the judge seems to conclude that a final written warning would have been enough. However the blog, "the most serious of the issues", means dismissal "would fall within the band of reasonable responses available to a reasonable employer".

There isn't a judge, of course, in a tribunal - just a chair. The reason for not having a judge is that the tribunal system was set up to create a service that was easier for individuals to access than the judicial route. The initial assumption was that neither party would have legal representation nor the costs that such representation involved, people would represent themselves.

I was an active trade unionist in the early days of the tribunals service and was trained by my union in helping members as a lay representative in tribunals. Although I am no longer an active trades unionist I do still occasionally represent people in tribunals. Indeed the reason for blog silence over the past few days is because I have been busy preparing a case for a War Pensions Tribunal Appeal. So although I wouldn't claim to be anything near an expert on tribunals, I do have a fair working knowledge of them.

Unfortunately over the past 15 years or so tribunals have become entangled in the professional legal mire that they were set up to avoid. When a claim is made against a large corporation or a government department, equally large specialist law firms are, almost always, used by the employer. Because costs are rarely awarded in tribunals trade unions are very reluctant to offer equal representation to their members because of the excessive costs involved. It appears that this is what has happened with Christopher too. Again according to Betsan:

He was sacked and and as things stand is taking his case to tribunal, despite his union, the PCS, heeding advice they've been given that he has some mountain to climb, such a mountain, carrying the threat of such a big bill at the end, that they've decided he must climb it alone

When an individual is left to speak for him / herself or left with a lay rep in a tribunal the employers' lawyers get dirty and aggressive. I remember one occasion when I received two letters from the same company on the same day. One requesting further details about an argument to be put before the tribunal, the other containing details of every penny I had ever owed in my life and a threat that if all wasn't repaid within 7 days I would be sued for bankruptcy. On another occasion the lawyers phoned my own employers to tell them that they were letting the side down by allowing me my holiday entitlement to coincide with a tribunal date.

It appears that The Welsh Assembly Government's Lawyers are getting dirty with Christopher too.

How can the BBC's reporter, Betsan Powys, make fairly sweeping comments about how week Christopher's complaint is (whilst remaining neutral, of course)? Based on:

letters I've had sight of

Has the WAG's legal firm been briefing the Beeb against Chris?

And then there is the threat in the letter that Betsan has seen:

Go ahead and we'll apply for a full costs order against you, one that covers all fees, charges, disbursements and expenses incurred by WAG.

The Tribunal rules say that if, after a preliminary hearing, a case seems so hopeless but one side or another insists on carrying on, then the preliminary chair can order a bond of £500 from the side that is almost sure to lose, if the case is lost after a full hearing then the bond is lost too. This happens in fewer than 2% of preliminary hearings. If a bonded tribunal is lost then full costs can be awarded against the losing side. This happens in fewer than a third of bonded cases. If Christopher had been told to put up a bond the BBC briefings would tell us so. If a bond hasn't been ordered we can almost guarantee no award of costs will be made. It is just bullying.

Betsan's post takes Christopher Glamorgan's case out of the "defending the blogosphere" category into a much more serious realm.

An inordinately large number of people employed in Wales are employed in public service. Their ultimate boss is the Government, an employer that might sack them for expressing an opinion and then bully and threaten them and brief the media against them if they dare complain!

Betsan says the issue:
will be discussed in an internal meeting, presumably in government offices in Cathays Park, next week.

I would suggest that that meeting seriously considers an apology, a large bung and a shut up clause to draw a line under this issue, before the Assembly is given even worse coverage as a shit employer than it is getting now and it will continue to get, win or lose, if it carries on with Chris' tribunal!


  1. Thanks for the insight into tribunals and the way they seem to be going the way of those who have the money clout yet again
    I wonder too where the information is coming from to the beeb and who is leaking it.
    I think this could be an interesting case as you sai for all reasons, best may be for blogers be they employed in private or public sectors is to get a written ok and guidelines of what they can and cannot do. I never blog on my employers time, and as I work so flexibly thats something I can do. But I checked out this blog with them and they have no problem with it

  2. under the impression that a preliminary hearing doesn't hear all the evidence, just a snap shot as to whether it should go further.

    Looks like it is going further from what Betsan suggests.

  3. If only Betsan reported the name of the firm of solicitors. Perhaps then we could discover if it was the same firm that was reviewing Welsh blogs.

    The Wardman Wire reported it was Morgan Cole in Cardiff.

  4. The Chair is now called an "Employment Judge" as an alternative.

    I'm not sure whether it makes any difference to the powers etc.


  5. Not sure whether the union supported the case from the very beginning. If they did, and pulled out after a year, that's irresponsible in my book. Sounds like they led him up the garden path only to slam the door in his face at the end.

  6. The guy should have blogged in his own time and on his own computer.

    His friends should now advise him to cop it sweet and get on with his life.

  7. Yes, and if everybody who used a works computer in work time for non work reasons was sacked the unemployment rate would be 90%.

    Chris was sacked for what he said, not because of the computer he used.

  8. Unfortunately over the past 15 years or so tribunals have become entangled in the professional legal mire that they were set up to avoid.

    This appears to be a key factor in the saga and it is very much a test case against the sphere.