#MindYourMouth warning to business as revelations go public

There’s a warning to mind p’s and q’s as the sexist revelations of football Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore go public, following hard on the heels of racist comments by Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling, and an employment tribunal says that secretly taped evidence is admissible in an employment tribunal hearing
US billionaire Donald Sterling looks set to lose his Los Angeles Clippers basketball team over racist remarks recorded by his ex-mistress and Richard Scudamore has been hauled over the carpet by the Premier League for sexist banter in emails that were revealed by his PA.
 
But the threat posed by everyday modern technology, such as recording conversations on a mobile phone, is not restricted to high-flying sports leaders.  An employment appeal tribunal judge has ruled that a secretly recorded conversation of managers discussing an employee involved in disciplinary hearings is admissible evidence. 
In the case of Punjab National Bank (International) Limited v Gosain, the employee made recordings of her grievance and disciplinary meetings, including private comments that were made by her managers when she was out of the room.  In the private comments, one manager referred to deliberately skipping some of the issues in her grievance and an explicit discriminatory remark was made.
When the employee brought a discrimination claim, the employer tried to block the use of the secret recording.  But the employment tribunal decided it was admissible evidence, saying that the comments that were made in the conversation fell outside the employer's legitimate consideration of the relevant grievance and disciplinary issues.  The employers challenged the first tribunal ruling but the decision has been upheld on appeal. 
“Covert recording used to be the stuff of secret agents, like the le Carré novels or James Bond films, but nowadays everyone has easy access to the technology.  Every modern mobile phone is a sensitive recording device, and there are no special skills or equipment needed to record audio or film footage of what’s said and done behind closed doors,” said Brendan O’Brien, Managing Director of Breeze & Wyles Solicitors Limited. 
“Although it was the extreme nature of the comments made by the employees of Punjab National Bank which resulted in them being taken into account, every manager should be reminded about taking care that discussions are above reproach, both within the hearing and in any private deliberations. “
He added: “It’s worth thinking about taking ownership of recording, and doing it publicly from the company side.  This should encourage managers to avoid off-the-cuff comments they may later regret, as well as providing reassurance to employees that they are being given a fair hearing.”
ENDS
Punjab National Bank (International) Limited v Gosain UKEAT/0003/14
 
Web site content note: 
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.
Punjab National Bank (International) Limited v. Gosain UKEAT/0003/14 :
http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKEAT/2014/0003_14_0701.html
 General news coverage of Richard Scudamore and Donald Sterling

Lifelong campaigner leads the way for dementia sufferers

Dementia sufferers wanting to remain in their own home have been given hope thanks to a lifelong political campaigner.
In a case that has emphasised the importance of making one’s wishes known before illness strikes, a challenge to Westminster Council over residential care has successfully been fought on behalf of dementia campaigner and former politician Manuela Sykes.
A Labour councillor for Westminster from 1974, Manuela Sykes was a long standing campaigner for better treatment for dementia sufferers. When she was diagnosed with the illness herself, she made a Lasting Power of Attorney and set out that she wished to remain in the flat where she has lived for the past 60 years, for as long as possible.
Now 89, Ms Sykes was admitted to a nursing home in December 2012, when the local authority decided she was unable to take care of herself. But thanks to having her wishes set out in the Lasting Power of Attorney, she will now be returning home for a trial period, after the Court of Protection ruled that all viable options should be explored to satisfy her wishes.
Westminster City Council had argued that it could not afford the cost of dedicated 24-hour care for Ms Sykes, but accepted the court's decision and is working with her representatives during the trial period.
The announcement of the judgement and naming of Manuela Sykes in this case was unusual, as hearings of the Court of Protection are usually held in private, because of the vulnerability and need for anonymity of those involved.
The Court of Protection is responsible for managing the affairs of people who have become mentally incapable, but by making a Lasting Power of Attorney – known as LPAs - people can appoint someone to look after their financial or health affairs in advance, and guard against incapacity due to illness or accident.
If someone has not made an LPA and they become mentally incapable, their financial and personal affairs have to be managed by a deputy appointed by the Court of Protection. Usually the deputy is a family member, but it tends to be a slow and expensive business for most families, as relatives may be forced to get permission from the Court for each transaction that they carry out.
Examples include the wife who had to get permission to sign any cheque over £500, after an accident left her husband in a coma. The deputy is also required to produce annual accounts, and there are legal and Court fees throughout the process.
Said Hardeep Nijher of Breeze & Wyles Solicitors Limited: “Putting an LPA in place when you’re fit and healthy avoids the delay and stress for relatives in having to refer to the Court of Protection later on. There is a cost involved in drawing one up, but this is far less than the cost of managing someone’s affairs as a deputy.
“Early action is important though, as an LPA is only valid if the person is capable of understanding what they are signing and its consequences.
He added: “LPAs tends to be thought of as being for older people, but they can be just as important when you are younger – for example, if someone is involved in an accident which leaves them incapable of managing their affairs.”
There are two types of LPA: a Property & Financial Affairs LPA, which is used to appoint someone to look after your finances; and a Health & Welfare LPA, which is used to appoint someone to deal with issues such as where you live and medical treatment.
The LPA must then be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, which is the administrative arm of the Court of Protection, before it can be used.
ENDS
Web site content note:
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Breeze & Wyles Debt Recovery Team retains coveted award and recognition

Congratulations to our Business Services Team who have won the award of Debt Recovery Firm of the Year by Finance Monthly.

Head of the Business Services Department, Maria Koureas-Jones, is delighted for the team to be recognised for all their hard work. Breeze and Wyles Solicitors Ltd have developed a strong unit, leading the market in providing recovery advice to a variety of clients.
Our strength in our propositions lie in the manner in which we have actively engaged with our clients. We bespoke our practices to fit with them rather than providing a one size fits all approach.
The Business Services team consists of recognised leading specialists in their respective fields. We would like to thank the whole team for all their work to achieve this accolade.
We would also like to thank our clients for putting us forward for the award. It is a great honour to be recognised, for a second year running, for our debt recovery service.
The Business Services team provide comprehensive advice to companies across the UK. To find out more please email rita.wright@breezeandwyles.co.uk