A judge threw out a bid to halt a tribunal hearing after describing evidence submitted of an “alleged threat” made against a witness by a Tayside solicitor as “quite reprehensible”.
Ian McFatridge also said it was little more than an attempt to get Wilma Swankie’s solicitor Nick Whelan removed from the case.
The development came on Tuesday during an employment tribunal which is being held in Dundee following the dismissal of Miss Swankie from Arbroath Town Mission.
The former centre manager is proceeding with legal action on the basis she was fired from the Town Mission for going to the charity regulator.
Town Mission solicitor John Macmillan said the alleged threat was made against board member Derek Marshall, who is giving evidence to the tribunal.
Mr Macmillan submitted written statements from two witnesses alleging Mr Whelan’s 16-year-old son told a group of teenagers at the Factory Skatepark in Dundee his father “intended to take him down and cause him to resign”.
Mr Marshall is the chief executive of the Factory Skatepark as well as being an Arbroath Town Mission board member.
Mr Macmillan said it was a “serious development” and suggested the claim could be struck out under Rule 37(1) of The ET Rules of Procedure 2013 if it was proved the conduct has been “scandalous, unreasonable or vexatious”.
Mr Macmillan said the best course of action was to adjourn and “hear evidence about this particular issue” from the witnesses next week.
He said Mrs Swankie could question the witnesses herself, instruct another agent to do so, or ask Mr Whelan to do it but his “strong position” was Mr Whelan should not question the witnesses.
Employment judge Mr McFatridge said: “This is all from a conversation amongst kids at a skatepark?
“On that basis we are going to spend a day of tribunal time hearing the evidence before we’ve heard any submissions as to the potential relevance and possibly making an order that the claimant in this case requires to instruct another solicitor to deal with it – is that what you are wanting us to do?”
“That’s my principal position, yes,” said Mr Macmillan.
Mr Whelan said: “The respondents position is there is chitter chatter amongst children at a skatepark with the suggestion that I have said to my son that an individual should resign.
“So what? What bearing does that have on the evidence of Derek Marshall and the conduct of this tribunal?
“This should be refused – if you take these documents at its highest, it’s a threat made by me in a conversation with my son to take Derek down.
“Well so what? What relevance does this have on the continuing hearing of this tribunal?”
Mr McFatridge said things may be said at home that should not repeated outside and suspected “words were going to be said” between Mr Whelan and his son.
He said he was “at a loss” as to what legal issue it raised.
Mr McFatridge retired to make a decision with his two fellow judges before returning and describing the submission as “quite reprehensible”.
“This seems little more than an attempt to get Mr Whelan off the case based on something a school child has said and we are not prepared to spend any more time on it. The application to hear evidence on the subject is refused.”
The tribunal continues.