Thursday, April 21, 2011

Paramedic was 'unfairly dismissed' after false rape claim

A paramedic who was sacked after a drunken woman made a false rape allegation against him, was unfairly dismissed, an employment tribunal has ruled.

The patient asked David Gledhill: 'Why don't you come in and f**k me?' when he walked her back to her home after he and his colleagues had assessed her in an ambulance.

She then stripped off her top and 'gyrated' on his crotch, repeating her question, only to tell police an hour later that he had attacked her.

Police dropped their investigation through lack of evidence and a panel from the Health Professions Council, which regulates paramedics, said his actions on the night had not constituted any misconduct.

Yet despite that and the fact that the woman had previously falsely accused two other men of raping her, London ambulance bosses labelled 48-year-old Mr Gledhill 'a predator' and 'potentially dangerous' and sacked him, saying they could no longer trust him.

They alleged he had been in the woman's home for 25 minutes, as opposed to the one-and-a-half minutes he insisted was nearer the truth.

After an employment panel found in his favour, a clearly delighted Mr Gledhill said: 'I feel absolutely exonerated because I've always said I had the patient's interests at heart.

'London Ambulance Service, for their own reasons, thought I had done something.

'All I wanted was someone completely objective to look at the facts and say: 'Your version of the facts was right'.'

Despite the victory he has not asked to be reinstated, as he stated he never wanted to work for London Ambulance Service again after the way he had been treated.

The claimant, from Isleworth, west London was in an ambulance with a female colleague on a Saturday night shift on September 26, 2009.

Controllers received a 999 call from a 33-year-old woman in Hampton Hill High Street complaining of chest pains, and they dispatched a fast response unit and Mr Gledhill's ambulance.

When they arrived the woman admitted she had been drinking and that she had made the call because she was lonely and upset.

After all three clinicians had checked the woman and decided not to take her to hospital, Mr Gledhill walked her across the road to her flat to ensure she was safe, declining an offer of help from his female crewmate.

When he failed to reappear she called him to ask if there was anything wrong he said no, and he maintained the situation when he returned to the vehicle about 15 minutes later.

The tribunal, in Croydon, south London, heard he withheld the information from her out of embarrassment and also that he did not fill in an incident form or ensure managers were properly informed until after the rape allegation had been made.

He said: 'As a paramedic working in London on a Saturday night you get spat at, abused, people do all kinds of things to you - throw bottles at you, steal things.

'So we have a high (tolerance) threshold and a young woman being a bit silly with me is not a big deal.

'Once she made the allegation that has completely and utterly wrecked my life I became more concerned.'
He conceded: 'I was probably naive but my naivety was not about the patient. My naivety was about how others would view my actions.'

An hour after the ambulance left the scene, to deal with a genuine emergency, the Metropolitan Police were called by the woman, claiming she had been raped.

Mr Gledhill was then arrested at his home and taken out in handcuffs before being interviewed and having swabs taken.

No charges were ever brought and the police dropped the case because of a lack of evidence.

Andrew Smith, counsel for LAS, criticised the claimant after he admitted having a cup of tea, as well as going to the toilet and restocking his ambulance after he got back to base, rather than ensuring a manager was aware of what had gone on.

Mr Gledhill said: 'I did, and you can hang me out to dry for that, but we had been working 11 hours, rushing all over London, taking people to hospital.

'We were shattered and yes, I prioritised having a cup of tea over having a chat about a woman who was a bit drunk.'

He said he was in her flat for 'a minute-and-a-half at most' and in the public vestibule outside her front door for 10 to 15 minutes.

LAS bosses said what happened between Mr Gledhill and the woman was not central to their investigation but it had been the catalyst to their investigation.

Peter McKenna, the service's assistant director of operations for the west area and the man who dismissed Mr Gledhill, told the tribunal, in Croydon, Surrey, that the claimant had acted like a predator.

He said: 'I didn't understand why the claimant didn't remove himself from the property.

'I didn't accept his rationale. He failed to provide me with an adequate explanation.

'The claimant unnecessarily stayed in a vulnerable patient's property for 25 minutes - he doesn't accept that timing - thereby compromising his position as a healthcare professional.'

Tony Crabtree, assistant director of human resources for the trust, told Gledhill: 'Given there was a breach of trust there were concerns over patient safety.

'We felt we were unable to trust you to be alone with patients.'

Mr Gledhill said in his closing submissions: 'Had I left that patient that night and she had self-harmed or killed herself I would be here today facing a charge of death by neglect. I know which charge I would rather face.'

Employment Judge Nash told the hearing: 'The claimant's case of unfair dismissal is well founded and succeeds.'

She said the dismissal process was flawed as LAS never told Mr Gledhill he was being investigated for sexual misconduct - the offence for which he was dismissed - but she stressed that even if the correct procedures had been followed the tribunal panel felt LAS would not have had reasonable grounds to sack him.

The judge added that the tribunal felt that the timing LAS estimated the claimant had been with the patient alone had been 'inflated' by the service.

'The tribunal note there was a lack of any corroborating evidence,' she said.

'All the evidence against the claimant used by the respondent had come from the claimant himself.'

However, despite finding in Mr Gledhill's favour, the judge ordered no compensation should be paid, as he had contributed to his dismissal with some 'serious and blameworthy conduct'.