Wife sacked estranged husband - tribunal

A PROMINENT education lawyer fired her husband - who helped run her business - because of his alleged behaviour at their daughter's 14th birthday, a tribunal heard.

A PROMINENT education lawyer fired her husband - who helped run her business - because of his alleged behaviour at their daughter's 14th birthday, a tribunal heard.

Yesterday David Nettleton, 61, won £1,500 in compensation for unfair dismissal after being sacked by his 52-year-old wife Melinda, who is both the principal solicitor and partner at SEN Legal in Looms Lane, Bury St Edmunds.

With its one trainee and two solicitors, SEN Legal provides specialist legal advice for families needing help with educational matters - such as appealing against decisions made by schools or local authorities.

Mr Nettleton, of Cadney Lane, Bury St Edmunds, was the firm's company secretary but had additional responsibilities that amounted, the industrial tribunal in Bury St Edmunds heard, to him being the managing director.

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The now estranged couple both represent the Risbygate ward on St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

The hearing heard how Mr Nettleton, currently unemployed but due to start work with the Department for Work and Pensions next month, had received a letter telling him he was to be made redundant on May 27 last year.

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But he was told verbally about his pending redundancy before the letter arrived by his wife, who, as well as being a lawyer and councillor, is also the chairman of the Bury St Edmunds branch of the Dyslexia Association.

Mr Nettleton, the tribunal bench heard, was dismissed from his job because of his alleged behaviour at the birthday of their daughter Victoria on May 25 - when he had learned he was being made redundant.

He was asked to hand over his office keys office on the same day.

John Friel, for Mrs Nettleton, claimed his behaviour amounted to "harassment" - something denied completely by Mr Nettleton.

He said Mr Nettleton's conduct on the day was “aggressive” - again denied by Mr Nettleton.

Mr Friel said: "It is our case that he was guilty of gross misconduct. It amounted to harassment."

In the letter sent to Mr Nettleton by his wife, she said the business was suffering as a result of forward financial planning and firm's descent into arrears on tax payments.

In her letter, Mrs Nettleton, of Looms Lane, Bury St Edmunds, said she "regretted" making him redundant but said that as well as not managing the business's finances well - described by her as "a failure" in the letter - she added there were "other reasons" for him losing his job.

Despite the letter saying he had a month's notice, Mr Nettleton did not return to the office for work. Mrs Nettleton claimed he was dismissed - as opposed to his being made redundant - because of his conduct and that normal dismissal procedures were not followed because she feared being harassed by him.

The couple were advised to reach a settlement by the chairman of the tribunal bench, Stuart Duncan. He said: "By agreement, it was declared that the claimant was unfairly dismissed by the respondent.

"The order, also by agreement, was that the respondent pay the claimant £1,500 by way of compensation and that all other claims be dismissed."

After the agreement between the couple was signed, Mr Nettleton said: "I'm pleased with the outcome and with the compensation."

Mrs Nettleton declined to comment after the case.

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