'Constable’ in employment context

Posted: 4th March 2014

eatIn a unique decision which defined the ancient common law office of ‘constable’ in the employment context, the Court of Appeal has reluctantly blocked a former parks police sergeant from pursuing an unfair dismissal claim.

The sergeant had served in the London Borough of Redbridge’s parks police service until a personality clash with a colleague precipitated his suspension, disciplinary proceedings and, eventually, his dismissal. There was no dispute that the man was an employee of the Council.

However, after he lodged an unfair dismissal complaint, an issue arose as to whether he was also a constable and thus precluded from pursuing his claim by Section 200 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. The officer won that debate before an Employment Tribunal but that decision was subsequently reversed by the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

In dismissing the officer’s appeal, the Court of Appeal noted that members of the parks police service, on taking up their roles, were required to take an oath before magistrates to uphold the law. Although not enjoying all the broad powers of police officers, ‘they were constables in the full sense of the word’ and held jurisdiction over the parks and open spaces of Redbridge.

The service, since disbanded, had been ‘established and maintained’ pursuant to the Public Health Acts Amendment Act 1907 and the London Parks Order and was thus ‘a constabulary’ to which the exclusion contained within Section 200 applied. The Court reached that conclusion ‘without any enthusiasm’ in that it removed a cause of action which would otherwise have been available to the former sergeant.