Legal battle over Northamptonshire parish councillor’s iPad back before tribunal

Stephen Pointer is suing Brixworth Parish Council over claims it discriminated against and harrased him.
Stephen Pointer is suing Brixworth Parish Council over claims it discriminated against and harrased him.

A legal battle between a Northamptonshire councillor and a parish council which he believes should have paid for an iPad to help him in meetings resumed at a tribunal yesterday.

Stephen Pointer, who is visually impaired had initially sued the chairman of Brixworth Parish Council Michael Lacey for discrimination after he claims the chairman “failed to make appropriate adjustments” to his disability.

Mr Pointer appeared at a resumed employment tribunal in Bedford yesterday for the second time, after the hearing was opened in December.

His original complaint was that Mr Lacey deliberately “ostracised” him by asking him to cover insurance costs for an iPad provided by the council to help him read and participate in council meetings due to being visually impaired.

Mr Pointer is also claiming five individual cases of alleged harassment.

However at yesterday’s hearing presiding judge David Moore deemed, following representations from the council’s barrister, that the complaint should be directed at Brixworth Parish Council as a whole, rather than just at its chairman.

Mr Moore said: “We have to agree that it was the council that made his decision because members were bound by the majority not to acquire this reading aid.”

A separate representation by Mr Pointer’s legal team to hold the tribunal behind closed doors was also refused by the judge, who said: “As a general rule justice should be held in public.”

He added that it was Mr Pointer who chose “to pursue the dispute in a public forum” by bringing legal action against the council.

Following the events between June and September of last year, Mr Pointer has not attended council meetings because, he claims, without the iPad he cannot participate fully.

The parish council had offered to provide Mr Pointer with an Ipad but retain ownership of the device.

But Mr Pointer refused because of the conditions it was offered with.

He also claims that his non-attendance at meetings was “not properly communicated” to the public by the parish council, giving the impression that he was no longer working as a member”.

The tribunal is set to resume today.