Legal and other costs - the University of Leicester and others

This is a response to the helpful information-gathering exercise being undertaken by AcademicFOI.Com: see www.academicfoi/com/untoldstories and the report posted on the bullied academics website on 4th April 2010 ('So you want to know how some universities waste taxpayer money and who the biggest offenders are?').

As someone who has, in the last three years, brought legal proceedings against the University of Leicester, the University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Robert Burgess, and the University's (now former) Director of Personnel Services, Dr Alison Hall (see the item posted on this website on 21st January 2010 - 'About the University of Leicester'), I would be interested to know why the information regarding the University of Leicester runs only from the 'Period since Dec 2008', when information was sought for 'the last 3 years'.

I wonder whether my two Employment Tribunal claims against the University, Professor Burgess and Dr Hall, lodged in November 2007 and July 2008 respectively, should have been included in the figure in the first column (Question 1).

If the figure showing 'the total expenditure on legal expenses ... in relation to the above disputes' (Question 5) had covered all claims 'submitted to the employment tribunal service' (Question 1), not just claims that were settled (Questions 2, 3 and 4, and 'Summary', 3rd entry), and if Leicester's figure in the first column should have included my claims, I imagine one could confidently assume that the figure in column 5 for Leicester would be significantly higher. Such reasoning would of course apply also in relation to any other institutions in a similar position.

For information, the University of Leicester has been assisted in my case by both a firm of solicitors (Mills & Reeve LLP) and Counsel (Mr Sam Neaman of Littleton Chambers).

In addition to costs resulting from claims brought in courts, not tribunals, other expenditure affecting figures for legal costs would be sums spent on legal assistance relating solely to dealing with grievances (including negotiations aimed at securing a compromise agreement before legal proceedings were brought). In my case, four grievances were presented between March 2005 and August 2006, while I was still in employment, and two grievances were submitted after I resigned in May 2007. A written response of the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Burgess, in respect of my fifth grievance indicated that the University had consulted its solicitors from the time I submitted my first grievance.

Other costs might be those associated with appointing external mediators or members of grievance panels. For example, the chairperson of a grievance committee appointed in my case was a barrister and part-time employment judge, Mr Mark Sutton of Old Square Chambers.

There may be an additional category of expenditure in disputes of the kind mentioned in the AcademicFOI.Com information. In November 2006, while I was still an employee of the University of Leicester, I submitted an Employment Tribunal claim alleging disability discrimination against the University alone. I withdrew the claim in February 2007 for health reasons. I am in possession of papers - obtained through a subject access request under the Data Protection Act - showing that shortly after that claim was lodged, certain of the University employees referred to in the claim were each offered 'up to a maximum of £1,000 (inclusive of VAT)' towards obtaining 'independent legal advice from an employment law specialist', for which 'invoices or claim forms' were requested. It was said that the University's solicitors, who would be preparing the University's defense, would be able to supply the contact details of such a specialist if that would be helpful. I do not know whether this offer was made to all of the relevant employees. For example, I have no evidence of Professor Burgess or Dr Hall having been included in that group. I also do not know whether those whom I know to have been recipients of the offer accepted it.

Glynis M. Truter