15 April 2021

No Luck In The Court Of Appeal For Mr Page…



Mr Page was initially reprimanded for expressing his views on same-sex adoption during the course of an adoption application hearing.
UK Employment and HR
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Page v Lord Chancellor and another [2021] EWCA Civ 254 (26 February 2021) and Page v NHS Trust Development Authority [2021] EWCA Civ 255 (26 February 2021)

In these cases, the Court of Appeal considered appeals from Mr Page, a practising Christian, who had been removed from his positions as a lay magistrate and non-executive director of an NHS Trust, following public statements about his views on same-sex adoption.

Mr Page was initially reprimanded for expressing his views on same-sex adoption during the course of an adoption application hearing. He subsequently appeared on BBC Breakfast News where he repeated his views, which led to his removal from the magistracy. Mr Page alleged that he had been victimised and that the second round of disciplinary proceedings (which led to his removal) were brought because he had complained that the first round was discriminatory. The Court of Appeal dismissed this appeal as it held that he had not been removed because he complained about the earlier disciplinary proceedings, but because he had publicly declared that he would determine same-sex adoption cases on the basis of his own preconceived beliefs rather than on the basis of the law or the evidence.

Mr Page had separately acted as a non-executive director of an NHS Trust and, following the media interest in Mr Page after his reprimand as a magistrate, the Trust instructed Mr Page to inform it of any further media interest and warned him that public expression of his views could undermine confidence that he would exercise his judgment in a way that was not affected by those personal views. However, Mr Page continued to give media interviews without prior notice to the Trust and, following the Trust's discovery of this, he was suspended pending investigation and his term as a non-executive director was not renewed on its expiry. Mr Page sought to claim that he had been discriminated against on the basis of his beliefs but the Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal, finding that the Trust hadn't taken action against Mr Page because of his beliefs but because of the way in which he had expressed these beliefs in the media without prior notice to the Trust.

A welcome decision that shows there are thankfully circumstances where individuals will have to accept some limitations on how they express their beliefs in public. Even so, the Court of Appeal made clear that each case will turn on its own facts and whether such limitations are justified will require a careful assessment of all of the circumstances of the case in order to strike a fair balance between the rights of the individual and the legitimate interests of the institution for which they work.

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