Thursday 8 December 2016

NCT company hired a 'private eye' to spy on one of its testers

Gordon Deegan

Published 17/09/2015 | 02:30

A private investigator was hired by Applus to place surveillance on a member of their staff regarding a possible breach of the company's code of integrity
A private investigator was hired by Applus to place surveillance on a member of their staff regarding a possible breach of the company's code of integrity

The firm that operates the National Car Test hired a private investigator to spy on one of its own testers at work as it suspected he was breaching its code of integrity.

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Philip Billingsley was subsequently sacked and took a claim of unfair dismissal to an Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT).

He lost the case after the tribunal concluded he used one car to pass another car's test.

Mr Billingsley was dismissed after the Spanish-owned Applus Car Testing Service Ltd hired a private investigator to place Mr Billingsley, and the NCT centre at Letterkenny, Co Donegal, where he worked under surveillance over two days in April 2012.

Applus hired the investigator after the firm's training and standards manager received an anonymous call claiming Mr Billingsley was guilty of possible misconduct at the NCT centre.

In June 2012, Applus wrote to Mr Billingsley about the allegations.

An investigation meeting was held on June 18 where a list with the details of three vehicles, a copy of photographs of these vehicles and three vehicle inspection reports were presented.

Suspended

The following month Mr Billingsley was suspended with pay and in September 2012 he was sacked.

The grounds for his dismissal included that he had driven vehicles to the test centre that were not his own, that he had falsified test results and that he had carried out work practices that were either untruthful or unethical.

Applus's regional manager for the north west told the tribunal, which was held over five days in Letterkenny, that Mr Billingsley was a good employee.

He also agreed that Mr Billingsley was a suitable candidate for possible promotion in January 2012. 

However, the regional manager said he recommended that Mr Billingsley be dismissed on the belief that Mr Billingsley had breached the company's code of integrity.

The regional manager told the hearing that as Mr Billingsley was unable or unwilling to explain the allegations against him, he felt the sanction should be dismissal. 

Mr Billingsley told the tribunal that family difficulties, and an ensuing dispute, resulted in a relative making false allegations about him to Applus.

The EAT records show that Mr Billingsley gave detailed evidence refuting all the allegations except one, which is that he drove a car that was not his to the test centre for a test. 

He said this was common practise and one which was known to Mr Billingsley's supervisor.

Mr Billingsley lodged a grievance on July 16, 2012, regarding the way he was being treated. 

The EAT found that Applus's view, in the absence of an explanation or contradiction by Mr Billingsley, that he had used one car to pass another car's test, was reasonable and the dismissal that resulted from this finding was fair. 

Irish Independent

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