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University lecturer loses constructive dismissal claim after forcing student to apologise for suicide attempt

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton
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In the case of Dr Paul Leaney v Loughborough University a Loughborough lecturer was sacked after he forced a student to apologise to their flatmates following a suicide attempt. Paul Leaney is also said to have instructed flatmates of the student (known as Student X) to tell them how the suicide attempt made them feel.

At an employment tribunal this week, the judge ruled that Loughborough University’s decision to dismiss Paul Leaney was correct.

Paul Leaney had worked at the university since 1979 and was a warden at the halls where Student X attempted to take their own life back in 2018. After the incident, Leaney organised a meeting with Student X  and their flatmates.

In the meeting, Leaney referred to Student X as “selfish”, also wrongly revealing the method they used to try and take their own life. Leaney told Student X they “had six weeks to show they were making an effort with their mental health,” after which point they could face expulsion, the court heard.

Leaney’s actions were investigated. The lecturer thought he was being targeted for his “old-fashioned thinking”, so he sued, alleging constructive dismissal. Leaney continued to work following the incident with Student X, so the judge found that he had not been constructively dismissed.

Leaney was set to retire in 2021 but this was brought forward a year.

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