Man sacked for belief in psychics backed by judge (but, of course, he knew that would happen)

Law Editor,Robert Verkaik
Thursday 12 November 2009 01:00

A police worker who was sacked because he believed psychics can help solve criminal investigations is to go to court today to defend his right to legal protection from religious discrimination.

In the first case of its kind Alan Power, a trainer with Greater Manchester Police, will rely on a previous judgment that found his belief in mediums who contact the dead is akin to a religious or philosophical conviction.

In an unpublished judgement in Mr Power's favour seen by The Independent, the employment specialist Judge Peter Russell said that psychic beliefs are capable of being religious beliefs for the purpose of the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003. This is the same law which was used by the environmental campaigner Tim Nicholson when he successfully argued that green beliefs were the same as religious beliefs in a case decided last week.

In Mr Power's case Judge Peter Russell, sitting at Manchester Employment Tribunal, said: "I am satisfied that the claimant's beliefs that there is life after death and that the dead can be contacted through mediums are worthy of respect in a democratic society and have sufficient cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance to fall into the category of a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Regulations."

Mr Power told the court that he had a belief in psychics and their "usefulness in police investigations" and wanted the judge to confirm that holding such a belief is not a justification for dismissal. Mr Power has been a member of a Spiritualist church for more than 30 years and gave evidence that Spiritualist churches have ordained ministers and that hymns are sung at church services. When cross-examined by lawyers for the Greater Manchester Police he said his religion was one of love because he believed in a God of love rather than one of retribution.

Judge Russell said that a later hearing would have to establish whether the claimant was "dismissed for the possession of religious or philosophical beliefs or for his alleged inappropriate foisting of his beliefs on others."

Mr Power is to call a psychic whom he has known since 1980 to testify that Mr Power's association with him has "proved detrimental" to Mr Power's career with the police.

But Greater Manchester Police will argue today at an employment appeal tribunal in London that Judge Russsell "erred in law" because Mr Power did not originally claim to have had a religious belief, only that he had a belief in psychics and their usefulness to the police force. The police lawyer will also say that Judge Russell failed to give sufficient reasons for his ruling.

Last week legal experts said the landmark Nicholson case could open the floodgates to thousands of claims brought by those with strong environmental views who are victimised or discriminated against in the workplace. Yesterday lawyers said the Power case showed how wide the equality at work regulations had been drawn.

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said: "GMP can confirm that a member of police staff was dismissed from his role as a trainer. The former staff member has appealed this dismissal. As the appeals process is underway it would be inappropriate to comment further."

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