Judge removes himself from case over fear of creating potential bias

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AN employment judge recused himself from Presiding over a race claim against City of Edinburgh Council today (Wed) – because his wife works for the same law firm representing the local authority.

After some deliberation, Joseph d’Inverno excused himself on the grounds that the situation could cause a “potential perception of bias”.

The tribunal was dealing with preliminary legal matters in a race discrimination claim brought against the council following a complaint by Kamaljit Kaur.

Mrs Kaur, 48, works to promote racial equality and teaches English as an additional language (EAL) in primary schools across Edinburgh.

She claims she was unfairly removed from her post at Sciennes Primary School after she forced teachers to report an incident where a pupil had faced bullying with a racial motive.

But as the hearing began Judge d’Inverno told all parties he thought it appropriate to disclose his wife’s link to allow them to consider it.

Judge d’Inverno’s wife Isobel works at Brodies LLP, the same law firm representing the City of Edinburgh Council.

Mrs Kaur’s husband Professor Prim Singh, 50, representing her at the tribunal, said his initial reaction to the disclosure was that there was a potential risk of perceived bias.

Ms Christine Livingstone, representing the council, said she was aware that the judge’s spouse worked for Brodies, to which Mr Singh replied: “Oh I see, so you’re all friends then.”

But Judge d’Inverno told Mr Singh that his statement was not a fair one, nor was it based on facts.

Ms Hayley Johnson, representing individual members of the council, said: “I think it is relevant to point out that your wife does not work within the employment team and has had nothing to do with this case.

“In fact, she works in an entirely different building from the employment team.”

Isobel d’Inverno advises on the corporate tax aspects of company acquisition, disposals and reconstructions.

The judge took some time in private to make his decision and on his return announced he would be recusing himself.

He said: “While no claimant or respondent has the right to select or deselect their judge in any case, I have given this case some serious thought.

“While it is not Scottish law that a judge should recuse themself if a close member of their family is affiliated with a law firm involved in a case, I have considered it.

“This is one of the few cases in my career where this has been an issue.

“This is somewhat exceptional circumstances and I feel that I should recuse.”

The hearing will continue tomorrow (Thur) in front of a new judge, and will determine whether or not Mrs Kaur’s claims are restricted by a time bar.

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