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Tribunal 'made serious error' striking out claim by BBC Look East journalist Sally Chidzoy

PUBLISHED: 13:30 12 February 2018 | UPDATED: 13:30 12 February 2018

BBC Look East journalist Sally Chidzoy at an employment tribunal hearing in Cambridge last year. Photo: PA

BBC Look East journalist Sally Chidzoy at an employment tribunal hearing in Cambridge last year. Photo: PA

Victoria Jones/PA Wire

An employment tribunal which struck out a claim by a BBC journalist for speaking to a reporter failed to properly consider how it would affect her evidence, an appeal court heard.

Sally Chidzoy, home affairs correspondent for BBC Look East, had her claim of unfair treatment against the corporation thrown out halfway through the hearing last February.

Ms Chidzoy had been seen talking to a Cambridge Times reporter during a short break in her cross-examination by the BBC’s barrister Sophie Belgrove and her solicitor.

They reported hearing the word “Rottweiler”, which had been discussed in evidence on the morning of the hearing at Cambridge Employment Tribunal on February 9 last year.

Miss Belgrove applied to get the case thrown out on the grounds Ms Chidzoy’s claim had been conducted in a “scandalous or unreasonable” manner and it was not possible to have a fair trial.

Ms Chidzoy said she exchanged “pleasantries” with the journalist, who had said the words “Rottweiler or terrier” moments before Miss Belgrove intervened.

Employment judge Michael Ord struck out the claim, saying that Ms Chidzoy had been warned repeatedly not to discuss the case during breaks and had lost the “necessary trust” of the tribunal.

But her lawyer Althea Brown told the Employment Appeal Tribunal on Friday that the tribunal had not taken enough evidence to properly determine that Ms Chidzoy’s evidence had been “corrupted”.

Ms Brown said: “The key point I want to address is that it is a given that strike out is an incredibly draconian and exceptional power that must be used when... it would be an affront to the court to continue to prosecute the claim.

“The tribunal’s decision does not consider the overhearing of the use of ‘dangerous dogs’ or ‘Rottweiler or terrier’ had any impact on evidence that had already been given.

“That was a serious error on the part of the tribunal.”

The reporter said her conversation with Ms Chidzoy had been “general chit chat”.

Sean Jones, for the BBC, said the tribunal had been entitled to reach the decision to strike the claim out without conducting a “trial within a trial”.

Judge Jennifer Eady QC will take time to review the case, which she said “justifies some reflection”.

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