BTMK on behalf of Essex Firefighters

The Personal Injury Department at BTMK Solicitors Limited has been instructed in connection with a number of individuals with their claims arising out of their employment as firefighters working for Essex County Fire & Rescue Service. Each of the claims concerns historic bullying of both ex and current employees on the grounds of race and sex. Although each case was subjective they were dealt with by the Courts collectively given the similar nature of the claims.  

Essentially, while employed by the Fire Service each of the Claimants had been subjected to serious bullying and harassment during their careers in the form of both physical and mental abuse on the grounds of the Claimants race and/ or sex. By reason of the abuse that had been suffered each of the individuals had suffered injury to varying extents. However, although the claims concern examples of serious bullying, a fundamental hurdle to overcome on all of these claims was that of limitation given that they were being brought some years after the incidents had occurred.  

Notwithstanding the potential difficulties with the issue of limitation, we accepted instructions from a number of Claimants and the claims were submitted to the Fire Service and their legal representatives who denied responsibility for the allegations and alleged that the claims were being brought out of time and were, therefore, Statute barred from progressing any further. As a result, for the claims to proceed it was necessary to firstly apply to the Court to have the issue of limitation determined i.e.; whether the claims should be allowed to proceed.

Following a three day hearing at Cambridge County Court last week His Honour Judge Yelton found that while there was some prejudice to the Fire Service in allowing the claims to proceed, management had not properly investigated or dealt with the culture in place at the time of these allegations as a result of which the Claimants should be allowed to progress their claims.  The extent of the culture was subsequently confirmed in an independent report prepared by Irene Lucas MBE in 2015 where it was described as toxic and corrosive which, alarmingly, lead to employees and communities being at risk.

While the Judgement only dealt with limitation; allowing the claims to proceed, following the hearing the parties were able to negotiate successful settlements on behalf of each Claimant.

At BTMK we are delighted with the outcome of the Judgement of the Court in accepting that each of the Claimants should, rightfully, have the opportunity to bring their claims allowing them access to justice given the Fire services’ own internal shortcomings at senior level.  Furthermore, we are thrilled that following this Judgement we were able to reach successful settlements on each case which can only serve to prevent further trauma and anguish to these individuals who have already suffered far too much.

Johanne Turner, Director and Joint Head of the Personal Injury department

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