Edinburgh bus driver who hit cyclist loses tribunal appeal against dismissal from bus company

Employment Tribunal (Scotland)
Employment Tribunal (Scotland)

A former Edinburgh bus driver who lost his job after hitting a cyclist with his bus on Leith Walk has lost an Employment Tribunal appeal against his dismissal.

The claimant, Mr S Beech, was employed by Lothian Buses Ltd between September 2008 and September 2019. He claimed that his dismissal was unfair and sought compensation as well as reinstatement in his role with the company.

The case was heard by Employment Judge Amanda Jones. The claimant represented himself, while the respondent was represented by Mr W Rollinson, solicitor.

Harsh decision 

The incident for which the claimant, a fully qualified bus driver, was dismissed occurred on the evening of 21 September 2019. While he was pulling out of a bus stop on Leith Walk, Edinburgh, a cyclist banged the outside wing mirror of the bus. The claimant, who had not seen the cyclist prior to pulling out, sounded his horn after this happened. 

The cyclist then pulled in front of the claimant’s bus and began making obscene gestures and swearing at the claimant. The bus then collided with the cyclist, who fell off his bike. The claimant called his control room and the emergency services while one of his passengers provided assistance to the cyclist. After the cyclist was taken to hospital, the claimant went home before the end of his shift. 

Following the completion of an accident report to which the claimant contributed, he was told at an investigatory meeting on 23 September that he was being suspended pending further investigation. A letter was sent to him confirming that he was being suspended for careless driving. At a disciplinary hearing on 27 September, chaired by the respondent’s traffic manager Mr Ferguson, he was informed that he was being dismissed for gross misconduct. 

The claimant made a written appeal against his dismissal, arguing that the decision was “too harsh”, and that the cyclist had no lights, no reflective clothing, and was under the influence of alcohol. Further, the police had stated that he was not blameworthy for the incident. However, he was unsuccessful at an appeal hearing on 14 October 2019, and at a final appear hearing in November. 

It was argued by the claimant that he had not been dismissed for a fair reason, and that the respondent had acted unreasonably during his appeals. Any inaccuracies in his evidence should be attributed to stress induced by the proceedings. The respondent’s position was that it had acted reasonably in the circumstances, and that there was no substantial unfairness in the procedures it adopted. 

Genuine belief of unacceptability  

In her decision, Employment Judge Jones said of the claimant’s evidence: “The claimant’s evidence was at times contradictory and unclear. In addition, the claimant on occasion was evasive and did not answer questions asked in cross examination. The claimant’s position before the Tribunal in relation to the incident which led to his dismissal was also often in conflict with the position he had adopted during the disciplinary and appeals process.” 

She continued: “The Tribunal accepted that the claimant would have undoubtedly been concerned by the events and that he would have found the internal proceedings stressful. However it was not, in the opinion of the Tribunal, an explanation as to why in a number of material respects the claimant’s evidence before the Tribunal differed to that given to the respondent during the disciplinary and appeals process. Therefore the Tribunal regrettably concluded that the claimant’s evidence was at times neither credible nor reliable.” 

On whether the reason for the claimant’s dismissal was accurate, she said: “Although in his statement, the claimant suggested that he had a ‘target on his back’ following an issue in relation to a breach of the respondent’s social media policy, and that he was a ‘thorn in the side of Mr Ferguson’ he did not lead any evidence to suggest that there was any other potential reason for his dismissal other than the incident on 21 September 2019.” 

She continued: “All of the respondent’s witnesses made clear that they were of the view that the cyclist’s conduct had been entirely unacceptable. However, they were all of the view that the claimant ought to have responded differently to that conduct by coming to a stop as soon as he was aware that there was a hazard on the road, rather than accelerating towards the hazard.” 

Addressing the fairness of the respondent’s procedures, Employment Judge Jones said: “The claimant had 11 years’ service and there were no live disciplinary sanctions on his file. The claimant suggested that a final written warning would have been a more appropriate sanction. However, the Tribunal concluded that given the respondent had a genuine belief that the claimant had acted in a dangerous and unacceptable manner, and given the nature of the claimant’s duties where he worked unsupervised and was required to ensure the safety of passengers and other road users, the decision to dismiss the claimant was a reasonable one.” 

For these reasons, the claim of unfair dismissal was dismissed. 

© Scottish Legal News Ltd 2021

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