An eye surgeon, who was found to be unfairly sacked from his job at Jersey Hospital before he even started, has put forward a damages claim against the government for around £8million, Express has learned.
It comes after the States Employment Board (SEB) – the government panel in charge of workers’ employment conditions and pay – last week lost a battle against a Royal Court decision that concluded Dr Amar Alwitry was unfairly dismissed just one week before starting his new role in Jersey in 2012, and therefore entitled to unlimited compensation.
Dr Alwitry’s £8million claim, which is documented in an schedule of ‘losses’, will now have to be determined by the Royal Court and will be subject to further legal proceedings.
His battle for compensation and acknowledgement of his unfair dismissal has spanned nearly seven years, with the SEB spending nearly £100,000 on legal fees as they maintained the position that Dr Alwitry’s sacking was fair due to his behaviour “ringing alarm bells”.
In yesterday’s States Assembly meeting, criticism was levelled at the government on the amount spent so far, with Deputy Higgins describing it as “one of the most shocking cases of waste of money by government.”
Pictured: Mr Alwitry was sacked from his job at the Hospital before he had even started.
The Chief Minister, who chairs the SEB, told the Assembly had spent £90,000 on external legal advice related to Amar Alwitry’s claims, and an additional £10,000 on this month’s Court of Appeal hearing.
He described the case as a “difficult matter” which his board had “inherited from various previous SEBs.”
Senator Le Fondré explained that the majority of the legal time spent in the case had been met “internally by existing resources within the legal Law Officers’ Department” and that no external costs had been incurred by the board or the Health Department.
He said that his board had attempted to mediate with Mr Alwitry but had “unfortunately” been unable. “The SEB is considering its next steps and remains open to negotiations but needs to consider the Court of Appeal’s judgment,” he added.
Pictured: The Chief Minister said the case has cost £100,000 to date in legal fees.
Upon learning of the costs incurred, Deputy Mike Higgins, whose questioning had prompted the Chief Minister’s revelations, said of the board’s attitude: “This Employment board to date has been like a gambler who's lost money and keeps on going back and trying to bet more money hoping to win back their losses.”
Referring to the Chief Minister’s mention that a previous SEB had chosen to defend its “based on what they consider to be sound advice received by them at the time”, Deputy Higgins said it should have been obvious the case would fail.
“The advice from the beginning was flawed as anybody who's ever studied law of contract would know. If you make an offer to someone and they accept it unconditionally, you have a binding contract.”
The Chief Minister refused to “rerun the merits or not of the early aspects of the legal arguments” saying it wouldn’t be appropriate He however noted that a number of the arguments raised by the SEB had been upheld in the Court.
Pictured: Deputy Mike Higgins described the legal battle as "one of the most shocking cases of waste of money by government or parliament.”
“At the end of the day, there was a judgment call made and a lot of it was made before our time to go down the route that was taken," he added. "The present SEB did try and seek mediation but obviously, unfortunately, wasn't able to get to an arrangement.”
Deputy Higgins said he hoped mediation would take place but warned the board they would be mediating “from a position of weakness since they’ve lost every case.”
He asked the Chief Minister to confirm whether Mr Alwitry’s actual claim was for £8million, but Senator le Fondré eluded the question.
He simply said the “exposure” had been and that it had been decided to take the case to appeal. “I will say that mediation has taken place previously and an agreement wasn't capable of being reached,” he continued.
Pictured: The SEB say they are hopeful more negotiations will take place.
“I understand that there is still an ability to do some further negotiations and we'll see what the outcome is as well in the next few days. SEB are meeting on Friday to discuss this matter.”
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