Tribunal ruling 'moral victory' insists Mayer

Former BBC News anchor Laurie Mayer is this week considering an appeal after losing his claim for unfair dismissal against the corporation.

Mayer criticised BBC South East boss Ellis, right

Mayer told Press Gazette that he and his NUJ lawyers, Thompsons, “were taking legal advice” on whether there was a point of law on which they could file an appeal.

A employment tribunal in Ashford ruled that Mayer had not been unfairly dismissed in July last year when he blew the whistle on what he called a “culture of intimidation” at the BBC News South East newsroom in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. The unanimous ruling found he “had not been subjected to any detriment”.

However, the tribunal did conclude the former presenter of South East Today had been badly treated by BBC management.

“One of the more disturbing aspects of this case has been the way the BBC has sought, retrospectively, to blacken his name,” the tribunal ruled.

“He did reveal ineffective management and a culture of bullying and harassment which caused discontent and suffering among the staff. He can take comfort from the fact that, as a result of his actions, the BBC newsroom at Tunbridge Wells is now a much happier place,” it added.

The tribunal also said the dispute was “a sad case involving a much-respected broadcaster who went out on a limb” to try to protect colleagues from bullying and harassment, concluding he had lost his job as a result of his action.

After the ruling, Mayer said he regarded the judgement as “a clear moral victory and complete vindication”.

“It seems strange to have won the argument and yet lost the case. The tribunal report is a damning indictment of the BBC. It finds ‘no doubt’ that my whistleblowing was the ‘prime reason’ for the non-renewal of my contract and criticises senior management,” he added.

Paul McLaughlin, the NUJ’s broadcasting organiser, said it was the first time a case about bullying had been brought under ‘whistleblowing’ legislation. “We will therefore be examining the verdict closely to see if there are grounds for a legal challenge.

“The fight goes on, both to get the BBC to take seriously its duty of care in dealing with staff who are bullied and harassed and to get full justice for Laurie Mayer,” he said.

Mayer had directed accusations at the BBC South East head Laura Ellis, output editor Rod Beard and his fiancée and assistant editor Davina Reynolds.

During the tribunal, several staff backed up Mayer’s bullying claims. BBC News South East journalist Jennie Tait broke down as she told the panel she became a “sobbing wreck” and ill from the stress of working in the newsroom.

The BBC said it agreed with the tribunal’s decision and its view that these were “sad circumstances”. A spokesman said: “The BBC would have preferred this case not to have gone to court as we understand how stressful it can be for all involved.”

By Wale Azeez

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