Tuesday 11 August 2020
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Highest appeal court hands sacked surgeon another win

Highest appeal court hands sacked surgeon another win

Wednesday 03 June 2020

Highest appeal court hands sacked surgeon another win


An eye surgeon who was sacked from his job in Jersey before he’d even started work has gained yet another legal victory in his fight against the States.

The latest application from Jersey’s States Employment Board (SEB) to overturn Amar Alwitry's complaint has failed in the island’s highest appeal court, meaning the only issue left to determine is the amount of damages the senior health worker is due.

The Jersey-born Consultant Ophthalmologist has fended off multiple legal challenges from the panel which manages all of the Government’s employment matters – first at trial, then in the Court of Appeal – and now, the Privy Council have added its ruling to his successes. 

This means that the only thing left to be determined in this case is how much Mr Alwitry is due in damages for the SEB’s breach – a decision that will be heard and considered by the Royal Court in Jersey. 

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Pictured: The Royal Court will make a decision on the amount of damages due to the sacked surgeon.

Ongoing for almost eight years, the dispute between the Consultant Ophthalmologist and Jersey’s SEB arising from his dismissal shortly before he was due to start at the local hospital was far from over when then the Royal Court ruled in the medic’s favour after a trial. 

Since then, the SEB appealed both the Court’s ruling and its decision that Mr Alwitry could be entitled to unlimited damages as a result of the trial’s outcome in Jersey’s Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal, however, was not convinced that the Board could argue their decision to dismiss the Consultant before he’d commenced his employment in the island was valid and therefore Mr Alwitry is entitled to any amount of damages. 

The Board have since referred the appeal over the validity of the dismissal to the Privy Council, but it has now been overruled again. 

In a media statement from St John’s Chambers – the legal firm which co-represents Mr Alwitry along with Jersey Advocate Steven Chiddicks – describes this decision as “a significant one” as it is “recognising at the highest judicial level” that the SEB’s dismissal of the consultant contravened the employment contract. 

When asked by Express about the status of this case, a Government spokesperson said: “The SEB sought leave to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on a point of law.  The leave to appeal was not granted. As such, the matter of Alwitry vs SEB remains for the Royal Court to determine the outcome of this case.”

The last step in this long-running case is for the Royal Court to decide how much Mr Alwitry is entitled in terms of damages.

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Pictured: The end might be in sight for the eye surgeon who was dismissed before he started working at the Hospital.

It comes after Senator Sarah Ferguson probed SEB as to current legal action it’s engaged in with former members of staff. 

In its response to the written question, the Board confirmed that there are currently three ongoing cases brought by former employees. 

It also emerged that outside of paying for the costs of running of the Law Officers’ Department and the Chief Operating Office, these cases are costing “approximately £200,000 to £250,000.” 

When asked by the Senator why the Board does not negotiate settlements in response to these employment grievances rather than engaging in “a stand-off” with the other parties, the SEB said that whilst they do sometimes ‘settle’, “agreement is not always possible.”

The Board’s response continues: “In directing or agreeing to any such discussion, the Board receives advice from case officers and the Law Officers’ Department (where such discussions are subject to litigation privilege, which is not waived). Additionally, the Board considers any such terms of agreements in the context of its public duty that such settlements are proportionate to the liabilities.

“Where there is an unrealistic expectation from the other party regarding liability and/or quantum, the Board cannot enter into such terms. This approach is consistent with that taken by other large employers, in Jersey and other jurisdictions.”

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Posted by John Henwood on
The appal procedure has now been exhausted and the day of reckoning is near. What a shocking waste of public money this process has involved. The SEB will get the blame and some of it is indeed theirs because they should have opposed internally the demand to pursue the case when it was clear it was a lost cause. The real villain of the piece though is the Department of Health and Social Services whose treatment of Mr Alwitry was scandalous and, as the highest court has confirmed, wrong. I believe the person responsible is no longer employed by H&SS - let's hope that person was sacked without a golden farewell, but I rather doubt it. It is to be hoped the current senior management of H&SS have taken on board the lesson to be learned from this whole sad and undoubtedly hugely expensive affair.
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