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Case details

R (on the application of Palmer) (Appellant) v Northern Derbyshire Magistrates Court and another (Respondents)

Case ID: 2021/0233

Case summary

Issue

Whether an administrator appointed under Part II of the Insolvency Act 1986 is a “director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate” so as to fall within s194(3) of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992

Facts

Mr Forsey was the sole registered director of West Coast Capital (USC) Ltd (“USC”). On 23 December 2014, Mr Forsey resolved to take steps to place USC into administration. Three administrators were subsequently appointed, one of whom was Mr Palmer. USC went into administration of 13 January 2015. The following day, the 84 employees who worked at USC’s warehouse in Scotland were given a letter by Mr Palmer informing them that they were at risk of redundancy and of USC’s intention to consult with them “insofar as possible within the timeframes”. The employees were given around 15 minutes to read and digest the letter. They were then handed a further letter signed by Mr Palmer which informed them that they were dismissed with immediate effect.

The Trade Union and Labour Relations Consolidation Act 1992 (“TULRCA”) s193(1) and (2) provides that where an employer proposes to dismiss at least 20 employees as redundant within 90 days it is required to give notice at least 30 days before those dismissals take effect. TULRCA s194(1) and (3) provides that any “director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate” is guilty of an offence if that person consents to, connives in, or negligently fails to prevent the company’s failure to give such notice. Mr Palmer and Mr Forsey were each charged with an offence contrary to that provision. Both pleaded not guilty.

Mr Palmer argued (inter alia) that he had not committed an offence because an administrator appointed under Part II of the Insolvency Act 1986 (“IA”) is not an “officer” within the meaning of TULRCA s194(3). The Northern Derbyshire Magistrates Court (the “NDMC”) considered that argument as a preliminary issue and rejected it. Mr Palmer sought to challenge that decision by way of judicial review. On 12 November 2021, the Divisional Court rejected Mr Palmer’s judicial review application. The Divisional Court also rejected Mr Palmer’s application for permission to appeal (although it certified the issue in the instant application as a point of law of general public importance). Mr Palmer now seeks permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Judgment appealed

[2021] EWHC 3013

Parties

Appellant(s)

Robert Stephen Palmer

Respondent(s)

Northern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court and another

Appeal

Justices

Lord Reed, Lord Hodge, Lord Burrows, Lady Rose, Lord Richards

Hearing start date

8 March 2023

Hearing finish date

8 March 2023