Translink awarded legal costs over ‘vexatious’ religious discrimination case

The Equality Commission supported Patrick Monaghans case

The Equality Commission supported Patrick Monaghans case

A Translink worker who alleged that religious discrimination forced him out of his job will have to pay legal costs after withdrawing his complaint ahead of a tribunal hearing.

Patrick Monaghan, who was supported by the Equality Commission, resigned from his post as a train cleaning supervisor at the York Street depot in November 2014.

In a case presented to a Fair Employment Tribunal (FET), Mr Monaghan alleged constructive dismissal – claiming his resignation was a result of “suffering discrimination and harassment on the ground of his religious belief”.

A tribunal hearing was listed for 10 days between the period of October 26, 2015 and November 6.

In support of Mr Monaghan’s claim, on August 14 last year the Equality Commission forwarded Mr Monaghan’s and five unsigned witness statements to the solicitor acting for Translink. One of these was said to be the evidence of a Martin Walker.

Signed copies were expected to have been forwarded within days, however, only one from the claimant and two witnesses were submitted more than four weeks later.

In a ruling published on the FET website, Judge Buchanan said: “On 18 September 2015 they were informed that the (unsigned) witness statement of Mr Walker was being withdrawn following a meeting between him and the Equality Commission legal team that day, and that Mr Walker would not be a witness for the claimant.

“Between 18 September and 2 October 2015 there was further correspondence between the representatives about when the outstanding witness statements would be submitted.

“Ultimately, on the latter date, the Equality Commission informed the respondent company’s solicitor that the claimant no longer wished to proceed with his claims.”

Following the withdrawal of the complaints they were formally dismissed by another judge on October 7 last year.

On November 6, lawyers acting for Translink applied to have their costs paid by the complainant because “in bringing the proceedings ... [he] acted vexatiously, abusively, disruptively or otherwise unreasonably”.

In his written judgement, Judge Buchanan said: “The letter of 6 November 2015 set out in some detail the grounds for this application, but when the matter came before me it had effectively crystallised into an application on the basis that the unsigned statements submitted to the respondent company’s solicitors from Martin Walker had never been made, generated or initiated by him, and that it was something about which he had no knowledge.”

The judge dismissed claims that Mr Walker agreed to dictate a statement over the phone to Mr Monaghan with a view to signing a properly drafted version at a later date.

He said: “I heard evidence from Mr Walker and Mr Monaghan to resolve this dispute, and had regard to such documentary evidence as there was relating to their exchanges and conversations, mostly in the form of text messages.

“I have no hesitation in accepting the evidence of Mr Walker. I found him a convincing and truthful witness, whereas I found Mr Monaghan’s evidence disingenuous at best.”

Judge Buchanan said he believed the case was withdrawn because of the “issues which had arisen with Mr Walker’s alleged statement,” and added: “I am therefore satisfied that Mr Monaghan, in effect, manufactured the draft statement, as he saw it as a way of bolstering his claims against the respondent company, and in particular, he hoped that it might lead them to settle his claims.

“Apart from the fact that it is hard to see why Mr Walker would have made up the allegations he did, I find support for this finding in the wording of the text messages, the fact that Mr Monaghan can give no explanation for the whereabouts of the jotter in which he noted down the bullet points of Mr Walker’s alleged statements over the phone, and the fact that Mr Walker was so angry when he discovered what had happened that he went along in person to the Equality Commission’s Offices to meet its legal team.”

On January 20, Mr Monaghan was ordered to pay £900 towards Translink’s £18,120 legal costs.

A spokeswoman for the Equality Commission said: “The Commission supported this case in line with its Policy for the Provision of Legal Advice and Assistance and in good faith. The claimant decided to withdraw during the course of his legal proceedings.”