Spy chief Iain Lobban may testify in bullying case

 

One of Britain's top spy chiefs may appear in front of an employment tribunal this week as a "material witness" amid allegations of bullying and racism at GCHQ.

Iain Lobban, director of the Government Communication Headquarters, could appear in a case brought by an Asian press officer at the top-secret listening centre.

The case touches on various issues between staff at GCHQ and the suggestion some employees may have had "the director's [Mr Lobban's] ear".

Alfred Bacchus, 42, a press officer with almost a decade of service in government, is claiming £150,000 for bullying, racial discrimination, and constructive dismissal after he resigned in August 2011 after almost two years at the intelligence centre.

Joe Sykes, Mr Bacchus's lawyer, claims that GCHQ has fought to keep the hearings secret. The intelligence agency will oppose an application being made today for Mr Lobban, "a material witness", to be called to give evidence

The intelligence chief may be questioned about his working relationship with colleagues, including one described in witness statements seen by The Independent as someone "who had the director's ear".

Mr Bacchus was one of a small number of ethnic-minority staff employed at GCHQ. His case includes details of an official report into racism at the intelligence agency, in 2010, which warned that Britain's national security was being compromised by the failure of GCHQ to recruit enough ethnic-minority staff. A redacted version has been released but the full version is so damning it was heavily censored by the Cabinet Office, according to Mr Bacchus's witness statement. The report makes it clear that GCHQ "was a thoroughly racist organisation" according to Mr Bacchus.

Mr Bacchus claims stress caused him to suffer heart problems and depression. He resigned after what he alleges was a "destructive" campaign of bullying. He accuses GCHQ management of failing to protect him from the "destructive treatment" he says he received.

GCHQ refused to comment on the specifics of the case but in a statement said: "We are of the view Mr Bacchus's claims of racial discrimination and harassment are without foundation and will be contesting them strongly at the Employment Tribunal."

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