A JUDGE has ruled an East Lancashire NHS trust was guilty of unfair dismissal when it summarily sacked its chief executive without right of appeal.

An employment tribunal found that the Calderstones Partnership NHS Trust failed to follow any proper procedures and was guilty of the ‘unlawful victimisation’ of Karen Wilson.

It now faces the prospect of paying out substantial compensation to Ms Wilson who was paid £125,000 a year for her role.

The tribunal however dismissed a similar claim against the Whalley organisation’s former chairman John Berry and allegations that he and the trust were guilty of sexual discrimination and harassment.

Presiding Judge Stuart Robertson ruled that Calderstones, which provides secure and specialist care for learning disabled offenders, broke employment law when it passed a vote of no confidence in Miss Wilson in April 2012, while she was off sick with stress, and then sacked her a month afterwards.

His reserved and detailed 68-page judgement sums up the run up to her dismissal, which included six months pay in lieu of notice.

Judge Robertson said: “It is difficult to conceive of a more unfair process.

“The claimant was given no chance to state her case.

“She was not told her job was at risk or about the vote of no confidence, even after it was passed.

“She was not given any right of appeal.”

Judge Robertson also found that claims by Calderstones that Ms Wilson had been subject to a ‘performance review’ before her dismissal were ‘untrue’.

The sum of compensation for Ms Wilkinson, appointed in April 2011 and now managing director for the health and social care charity Alternative Futures Group, will be set at a hearing in Manchester on July 27 unless a financial settlement if agreed first.

Judge Robertson said the Trust had ‘conceded’ the dismissal was unfair and that ‘no procedure whatsoever was followed’ but claimed her sacking was inevitable after the board of directors lost confidence in her.

He ruled Ms Wilson’s allegations of sex discrimination and sexual harassment against Calderstones and Mr Berry were ‘not well-founded’ and dismissed them after a series of hearings in Manchester.

Judge Robertson dismissed her claims that Mr Berry had a ‘chauvinistic’ way of working and had tried to control her Her further claims she had been sacked after airing a grievance were also rejected.

Her sacking came at a critical time for the learning disabilities trust, with directors uneasy about a planned merger with the Ridgeway trust in Oxfordshire, the tribunal was told.

Mr Berry and senior non-executive director and former Lancashire Evening Telegraph editor Peter Butterfield met with Ms Wilson in February 2012 to warn there had been a ‘complete breakdown of relationships’ between her and the board.

This view was echoed by trust governors, concerned about her ‘visibility and timekeeping’.

Three executive directors had threatened to leave, amid concerns over the prospective merger.

Ms Wilson went off sick shortly afterwards and never returned.

She was sacked in May after a vote of no confidence by directors in April.

Ms Wilson had accused Mr Berry of referring to her as ‘the apprentice’ or ‘the lass’, making inappropriate jokes, and invading her personal space.

However Judge Robertson said: “The tribunal does not find on the balance of probabilities that Mr Berry behaved as the claimant alleges.”

A Calderstones spokesman said: “We accept the findings of the tribunal and are pleased to note Ms Wilson’s allegations of discrimination, harassment and dismissal were rejected.

“We also note that although Ms Wilson’s dismissal was not subject to a formal process, the tribunal says that it remains likely Ms Wilson would have been fairly dismissed in the circumstances.

“The tribunal also found that Ms Wilson had been victimised by a comment in correspondence sent on the trust’s behalf.

“We regret that comment.”