Former vicar loses employment tribunal claim against Bishop of Lichfield

dioceseoflichfieldThe former Vicar of the Church of the Good Shepherd with St John in West Bromwich has lost his Employment Tribunal claim against the Bishop of Lichfield.

The Revd Dr Patrick Okechi was removed from office and barred from serving as a priest for 10 years in December 2008 following a disciplinary tribunal which found him guilty of conduct unbecoming to the office and work of a Clerk in Holy Orders. 

He appealed against the decision to the Employment Tribunal but did so out of time.  During a preliminary hearing in July Dr Okechi made allegations that the former Bishop of Wolverhampton and two named solicitors collaborated to mislead him as to his employment rights.  The hearing was adjourned until today and Dr Okechi was ordered to provide documentary evidence and witness statements to support his allegations.

At a hearing Dr Okechi withdrew claims that the former Bishop of Wolverhampton had collaborated against him.  The Rt Revd Mike Bourke attended the tribunal hearing but was not required to give evidence after Dr Okechi said he accepted the contents of the bishop’s witness statement.  He also withdrew similar allegations against the first of the named solicitors and instead of collaboration or conspiracy said that the second of the solicitors had, in effect, acted negligently.

Giving judgement in favour of the Bishop of Lichfield, Employment Judge Kearsley said the Tribunal did not have any jurisdiction to hear Dr Okechi’s claim as it was out of time.  He said:

“This Tribunal has not decided that the solicitors were negligent.  That decision is for a different forum.  But the Claimant relies on the fact that he received negligent advice as the reason that the claim was late and consequently this Tribunal has no jurisdiction to hear the claim for unfair dismissal.”

Responding to the judgement, Gavin Drake , director of communications for the Diocese of Lichfield, said:

“This has been a very long process for all concerned.  But the Employment Tribunal claim is now at an end, the vicarage has been vacated and a new priest has been appointed to the Church of the Good Shepherd.  The parish can now look forward to the future with a fresh start and we are delighted to have reached this point at long last.”

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