Charity told to pay £25,000 to wrongfully dismissed employee who had been attacked by man wielding two knives

The homelessness charity St Mungo’s has been ordered to pay more than £25,000 to an employee it wrongfully dismissed after he had been attacked by a resident with two knives.

An employment tribunal in February ruled that the charity wrongfully dismissed the claimant, named in the papers only as Mr M Finnerty, after deciding he responded to a violent incident in a way that breached his contract.

The charity said it had been given leave to appeal that ruling and that process was ongoing.

But a subsequent remedy hearing, the ruling of which was published this week, awarded Finnerty more than £25,000 in damages and compensation.

The earlier judgment said Finnerty had worked at the charity as a housing management and lettings co-ordinator from March 2000 until his dismissal for gross misconduct in June 2019.

Finnerty had attended a housing project in August 2018 where he was confronted by a resident who was being evicted for threatening a contractor with a knife, according to the judgment.

Finnerty was signing for a delivery at the front door of the property when the resident entered the hallway with his dog.

The tribunal documents showed Finnerty had said the resident was threatening to kill him and attack him with his dog.

Finnerty feared for his life because the resident had a history of threatening people with knives, the judgment said, so he ran at the resident and pushed him outside the property and into its bin storage area.

CCTV footage showed the resident re-entering the property and an altercation ensued, with the resident pulling a knife from his waistband.

Later, the footage showed, the resident produced a second knife and slashed at Finnerty, who kicked out at him and used a fire extinguisher to defend himself.

In a statement he gave to the police, Finnerty admitted punching the resident, but he did not include all that information in an incident form he was asked to complete by the charity.

Failing to disclose this information to St Mungo’s was the reason for the disciplinary process, according to the tribunal documents.

The case against Finnerty was that he had instigated the violence and misled the charity about the incident afterwards.

In his earlier decision, Judge Palmer said he accepted that Finnerty was so traumatised by the incident that he did not see the significance of filling in the form.

The tribunal documents show that the police arrested the resident, who was subsequently convicted of crimes that were not specified in the ruling.

In his decision, Judge Palmer said: “The claimant did not behave ideally, but in all the circumstances I do not consider that the decision to dismiss him falls within a band of reasonable responses of an employer faced with the circumstances with which they were faced.

“Perhaps a more appropriate sanction by the respondent would have been a warning or even a final written warning.”

A St Mungo’s spokesperson said: “As we have been granted permission to appeal the original judgment, and that process is ongoing, we are unable to comment further at this time.”


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