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Man loses appeal over claim late wife 'victimised' at Belfast Bible College


Belfast Bible College faced legal action from the family of Colette Wright

Belfast Bible College faced legal action from the family of Colette Wright

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Bible College faced legal action from the family of Colette Wright

A widower has lost a fresh legal battle over allegations that his late wife was victimised in her former job at Belfast Bible College.

The challenge was mounted after a Fair Employment Tribunal dismissed claims pursued on behalf of Colette Wright - believed to have been the only Catholic working at the theological facilities in Dunmurry.

But the Court of Appeal rejected all grounds advanced by her husband Brendan Wright.

Mrs Wright, who died in February 2017, worked as a part-time receptionist at the College for 12 years until she took voluntary redundancy in April 2016.

A case was brought against her former employer and its director of operations, Alan McCormick, claiming discrimination on grounds of religious/political belief, age and gender, and unlawful victimisation.

With proceedings continued by Mrs Wright's husband following her death, the college contested all allegations.

In submissions he stated that she had been the only Catholic employee during her time there, and described it as a "mystery" that she got the job.

The court heard disputed claims that actions taken against Mrs Wright culminated in her selection for redundancy in November 2015.

Reference was also made to a senior member of staff being an elder at a place of worship which is allegedly "well known for being to the far right of the Presbyterian Church".

In May 2019 the Tribunal dismissed the case, but ordered an agreed payment of £1,099 in unpaid wages to her family.

An appeal against its determination centred only on the dismissal of the victimisation allegation.

Mr Wright contended a failure to apply the correct legal test, inadequate reasons, perversity and procedural unfairness.

However, judges ruled that all points raised on appeal were unsustainable.

Citing an issue about the alleged non-provision of a reference, Lord Justice McCloskey said this had been a "negotiating makeweight" which did not form part of the agreement ultimately struck in April 2016.

He added that the Tribunal accepted the College's willingness to provide a reference if a request had been made by any prospective employer.

The judge confirmed: "On the basis of these findings this aspect of the victimisation claim could not conceivably succeed."

Belfast Telegraph