P v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis: Supreme Court fills gap in Equality Act 2010 to give effect to EU rights

The Supreme Court has given judgment in the long-running dispute over whether police officers can bring discrimination claims based on the actions and decision of the police disciplinary panel.

Following the Court of Appeal’s decision in Heath v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2004] ICR 329, the Metropolitan Police asserted that the disciplinary panel was a judicial body immune from suit.  The Claimant’s claim was struck out at first instance, in a decision which was upheld by the EAT and the Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court held, however, that Heath was no longer good authority where directly-effective rights under the Employment Equality Framework Directive (Council Directive 2000/78/EC) were in play.  In a judgment given by Lord Reed, the Supreme Court held that the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 deeming police officers to be employees must be read so as to give effect to the Framework Directive, and therefore to override judicial immunity by force of statute.  The Supreme Court declined to determine whether the disciplinary panel was otherwise a judicial body immune from suit under purely domestic legislation.

The upshot of the Supreme Court’s decision is that allegations of discriminatory acts and decisions taken by disciplinary panels, including the dismissal of police officers, will now be justiciable in the Employment Tribunals.

Jesse Crozier acted for the Commissioner of Police. The judgment is available here.

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