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Former curate takes Lichfield diocese to employment tribunal

18 August 2023

David Green highlights abuse, misconduct, and bullying allegations in diocese

St Bartholomew’s in Longnor Benefice

St Bartholomew’s in Longnor Benefice

A FORMER curate in training has accused Lichfield diocese of detrimental treatment after he highlighted abuse, misconduct, and bullying allegations involving his training college and the diocese.

The former curate, David Green, also claims that the Lichfield Diocesan Board of Finance discriminated against him over a medically contested suggestion that he might be autistic, and that this led to an excessive focus on the abuse.

His case is due to be heard at an employment tribunal next spring. First, though, there was a preliminary hearing last month before an employment judge, Hilary Slater, in Manchester, to determine Mr Green’s employment status and whether the court had jurisdiction to hear his case.

Judge Slater ruled that Mr Green was not an employee, but allowed his complaints to proceed on the basis that, as he was a stipendiary assistant curate in training, he was a “worker”.

The ruling is significant, as Mr Green is thought to be the first clergy office-holder to bring a whistleblowing detriment claim since a Supreme Court judgment in 2019 granted whistleblowing protection to office-holders. Previously, the law was vague on the status of workers not directly employed by an organisation.

Mr Green was ordained deacon in 2019 to serve as an assistant curate in the Longnor benefice, near Leek, in Staffordshire, But, when his licence expired in June this year, his second stage of initial ministerial education (IME2) had not been signed off by the Bishop of Stafford, and he had not been ordained priest. He is currently retraining as a mental-health worker.

Mr Green has two grounds of complaint. The first is that he suffered detriment after initially blowing the whistle about an alleged sexual assault and several instances of bullying disclosed to him relating to the Theological Education Institution where he had undergone ordination training. Alleged victims indicated to him that these things were “swept under the carpet”. Further public interest disclosures and alleged acts of detriment followed, which also form part of this claim.

The second is that he was directly discriminated against on the grounds of perceived disability, after the diocese made use of a contested psychological assessment that was allegedly procured, specified and inaccurate background information supplied without his knowledge or consent.

Judge Slater said in her preliminary ruling: “The claimant was not an employee for the purposes of bringing a complaint of disability discrimination under section 39 of the Equality Act 2010 but can pursue his complaints under section 49 as the holder of a personal office.”

Mr Green said that he was “quite pleased” by the ruling. “It doesn’t have the status of a higher-court decision, but it points in a helpful direction. It gives office-holders similar rights to those of workers.

“I have spoken to the whistleblowing charity Protect, and neither of us can think of an example where a non-judicial office-holder has successfully been allowed to bring a whistleblowing claim to an employment tribunal.”

A spokesman for Lichfield diocese said: “While we may comment at a future time, we cannot comment on what is largely a private matter relating to an individual while the legal process is ongoing.”

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