Sunday 24 February 2019

Football fan sacked by Irish Rail after being jailed at Euro 2016 wins damages in unfair dismissal case

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Stock picture

Gordon Deegan

AN IRISH football fan has been awarded €24,200 following his summary dismissal by Irish Rail due to his jailing for assault during the Euros in France in June 2016.

In the case at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), David Hunt (37) from Ballinteer in south Dublin has successfully sued for unfair dismissal.

Irish Rail dismissed Mr Hunt by letter while he was still in a French prison in September 2016 after telling him that he was unable to fulfill the terms of his contract.

Finding that the dismissal was unfair, WRC Adjudication Officer, Máire Mulcahy said that Irish Rail initiated no contact with the complainant or his family to ascertain the relevant facts.

Ms Mulcahy said that the electrician - who had worked 14 years for Irish Rail before his unfair dismissal - was not given any advance notice, nor offered any procedure or the right of appeal by his employer.

Ms Mulcahy has ordered Irish Rail to pay Mr Hunt €16,472 for his unfair dismissal and an additional €7,728 to compensate him for not being paid any notice.

Ms Mulcahy said that she reduced the unfair dismissal by 80% to €16,472 due to the worker’s massive contribution to his own dismissal.

Ms Mulcahy said that the worker’s summary dismissal deprived him of the right of procedural fairness and that the employer made no effort to ascertain any facts other than what was provided to them by the complainant’s father.

Ms Mulcahy said that the electrician’s offence was dealt with by the French judicial system and he paid the penalty.

Ms Mulcahy did not accept that the prison term was sufficient to frustrate the worker’s contract with Irish Rail.

Mr Hunt was initially jailed for eight months in June 2016 following a street fight in Paris and the jail term was later reduced to five months.

In evidence, Mr Hunt told the WRC hearing that having consumed significant amounts of alcohol and believing himself and a friend to be in danger, he got involved in a fight in Paris

Mr Hunt was arrested on June 15th 2016 two days after Ireland’s opening game with Sweden which ended 1-1.

Mr Hunt was detained and then prosecuted in the Paris Metropolitan Court, and sentenced on June 17th 2016.

Mr Hunt stated that because of a fatal incident at another sporting event, the French judge informed him that he was going to make an example of him.

Mr Hunt told the WRC that while in detention he was not allowed to send any letters because an appeal was underway against the sentence and external phone calls were impossible.

Mr Hunt’s father also gave evidence at the WRC hearing and stated that after several unsuccessful efforts, he made contact with his son in prison.

Mr Hunt’s father said that he was able to brief his son’s employer that he may have his eight month sentence reduced significantly.

An Irish Rail worker told the hearing that the complainant’s father told him that the French solicitor in the case said that the sentence imposed was very severe.

Mr Hunt’s father also told an Irish Rail worker that it took a week to have a telephone appointment with his son and a visit even longer while his son was in prison.

However, on September 12th 2016, Mr Hunt had his employment terminated by Irish Rail with the dismissal letter stating “owing to the circumstances of your custodial sentence you will be unable to fulfill your contract of employment over the next number of years”.

In her findings, Ms Mulcahy stated that when issuing the letter, the employer knew that the sentence was eight months and not ‘the next number of years’ as stated in the dismissal letter.

Mr Hunt’s union asked Irish Rail that the decision to dismiss Mr Hunt be deferred until his return from France and this was refused by Irish Rail.

Ms Mulcahy rejected Irish Rail’s argument that the case should be viewed as a frustration of contract and not an unfair dismissal.

Irish Rail and Mr Hunt's legal representative in the case have been contacted for comment on the outcome of the case.

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