Defending in the Special Education Needs Tribunal for disability discrimination

Thomson Snell & Passmore LLP are delighted to announce a successful defence in the special education needs tribunal (SENT), the first that the firm has acted on.

Our client is an independent faith school and had a long-standing relationship with Thomson Snell & Passmore and so when they faced a claim for discrimination they reached out to us.  Through a combined approach Nick Hobden, and Charlotte Astridge, from the Employment team and Douglas Skilton from our Dispute Resolution team were able to land a resounding victory.

The claim was lodged on behalf of a former pupil of our client, assisted by their parents.  The claim centred around three primary allegations of indirect disability discrimination.

Having previously assisted our client in supplying this pupil and their parents with the documents relating to a data subject access request (DSAR), the team were able to efficiently extract the relevant disclosure required for the bundle.  Drawing from this previous work and knowledge of the documents allowed the team to prepare a substantial defence to the claims.

From there, Thomson Snell & Passmore worked closely with our client to put together the witness statements from each of the key individuals who had pertinent knowledge of the pupil, whilst he was enrolled with our client, in order to rebut the claims made against our client.

In addition to drafting the defence, amalgamating documents for the bundle and drafting/exchanging witness statements, the team responded to and submitted various requests for change lodged with the SENT that dealt with numerous issues such as additional disclosure, witness statement exchanges and postponement of hearings.

Due to SENT resource availability and the COVID-19 pandemic, the matter was heard nearly a year after the intended final hearing date.  This came with the human risk that memories would fade over time.  Therefore, the early and detailed preparation of the witness statements, drawing on relevant documentation was critical to ensure that our witnesses could step into the SENT with the knowledge of the matters as if it had only recently occurred, ensuring incredible ease, accuracy and confidence.  Overall, this led to the SENT preferring our witness evidence and a finding in our client’s favour on all three points.

A major factor for this matter going all the way to final hearing was the inability of the SENT to award compensation against our client.  Therefore, this was a matter of protecting our client’s reputation.  Thankfully, through the hard work of our client and the Thomson Snell & Passmore team we were able to provide peace of mind through a categorical defence of all the claims and maintain our client’s positive name.

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