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FIRE AUTHORITY ORDERED TO REINSTATE SACKED STAFF

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Four firefighters told to resign from their jobs more than three years ago - and then sacked when they refused - ha...
Four firefighters told to resign from their jobs more than three years ago - and then sacked when they refused - have been reinstated following a judge's ruling at London's high court.

Stephen Dunbar, Barry Kearley, Bernard Ross and Richard Thoroughgood, who were based at Basingstoke, were told they had to quit by the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service in September 2000 after a disciplinary tribunal upheld an earlier ruling that they had sent a colleague 'to Coventry'.

Mr Thoroughgood was also found to have called a leading firefighter 'a useless twat' at a meeting in April 1999.

Following an appeal to deputy prime minister John Prescott - which they were allowed under the service's rulebook - he recommended they be reinstated in June last year.

But the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service still refused to give them their jobs back.

Yesterday high court judge Mr Justice Elias backed Mr Prescott's ruling, and said the firefighters must be reinstated - and also given backpay for the three years they have been out of their jobs.

Mr Ross, 52, is the only one who won't be returning to work as he has passed his retirement age, but his record will be amended to show no disciplinary finding against him.

In total, they will be due more than£280,000 in back pay, and the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service were also ordered to pay the legal costs of the lengthy case, which could run into millions of pounds.

After the ruling the four welcomed yesterday's decision and called for top-level resignations at the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.

'Before any of us go near that place we need to thrash things out around a table,' added Mr Dunbar, 45.

Mr Kearley, 41, and Richard Thoroughgood, 31, were also 'delighted' with the decision.

Mr Ross, whose career as a firefighter was effectively ended two years early because of what happened, said the whole ordeal had caused him many hours of heartache.

'I was suffering from depression and was o n the at-risk list,' he said. 'It almost destroyed my life. It came close to destroying my family.

'People were coming up to my wife Nicola, who runs our village post office, and saying I didn't know your husband was a bully.

'It has been extremely difficult and it is only now that the brigade will turn around and do what they should have done in the first place.'

Earlier Mr Justice Elias had said that, by not accepting the decision of Mr Prescott - who is in overall charge of discipline in the fire service - the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service had acted outside their powers.

'The fire service is frustrating the will of parliament,' said the judge.

He also dismissed arguments made on behalf of the the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service that the reason for the firefighter's dismissal was no longer disciplinary, and said that was why they were originally sacked.

'It follows that, however difficult it may be, the fire service must accept the decision of Mr Prescott and give affect to it,' he said. 'The firefighters are also entitled to back payments.'

Reaction from the fire authority here.

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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