Former Leicester City Council chief executive Sheila Lock fails in court battle over dismissal
Former Leicester City Council chief executive Sheila Lock has lost a High Court challenge against her dismissal.
Ms Lock was made redundant from her £174,000 post last year when Sir Peter Soulsby abolished the position on becoming the city's elected mayor.
The ousted chief executive launched a judicial review challenge to decisions leading up to her dismissal, claiming the council breached her human rights to a fair hearing and respect for her private life.
Yesterday, a senior judge criticised the "infelicitous and ill-judged" way the news of her dismissal was broken to her – but threw out her case.
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Despite the council's legal victory, its former top officer is now expected to resume an employment tribunal against the authority, which was suspended pending the High Court ruling.
Judge Roger Kaye QC told the High Court in Leeds that in July last year, Ms Lock was off work due to the stress caused by a four-year harassment campaign by a council worker, who has since been jailed.
While she was off work, she was sent a letter telling her the role was to be "deleted" and to "treat this letter as a formal notice of redundancy".
The full council approved the abolition of the chief executive role the following month and, after an in-house appeal was rejected, Ms Lock was dismissed and given four months notice until December 2011.
At the High Court, she challenged the process leading to her departure, claiming the council acted unlawfully by sending her a letter of redundancy before the full council had ratified the abolition of her role.
Ms Lock also claimed that by informing the media she was off sick and automatically dismissing her from her other role of head of paid service, the council breached her human rights to a fair hearing and privacy.
However, Judge Kaye rejected her claims the dismissal was unlawful, ruling: "I can well understand the criticisms of the infelicitous and ill-judged language and drafting of the July letter.
"But it has to be remembered that the letter is just that; it is not a lease or mortgage and must be read reasonably and sensibly and in context as it would be understood by a reasonable person reading it with relevant knowledge." He concluded there was a "legitimate interest" in the media knowing she was ill.
He said: "In my judgment, despite the infelicitous wording of the July letter, there has been no material irregularity, unlawfulness, unfairness or irrationality in the decision to dismiss her as chief executive and as a person who was the designated head of paid service."
A city council spokesman confirmed that Ms Lock's application had been unsuccessful but said: "In view of the possibility of an appeal it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."
The Mercury tried to contact Ms Lock and Sir Peter Soulsby about the judgment, but was unable to reach them.