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Payout for BBC journalist ‘sacked after failing to report royal birth’

A BBC journalist has won £50,000 in compensation after an employment tribunal ruled he was the victim of unfair dismissal when he was sacked following a disciplinary process that began with his decision not to report on the birth of Prince George.

The Central London Employment Tribunal heard that Chandana Keerthi Bandara, former producer at the BBC Sri Lankan news outlet Sinhala Service, was in charge of publishing online articles on 23 July 2013. He ignored pressure to publish news about the birth of Prince George, focusing instead on the 30th anniversary of ‘Black July’ – a period in which thousands of Tamils were killed in Sri Lanka.

Following discussions with management, Bandara published a story on the birth later that day, but was later given a final written warning – despite having a clean record over more than 18 years with the broadcaster.

In August 2014, Bandara was sacked by manager Kerry Gonis following allegations of misconduct, which included making derogatory references to a colleague and shouting at others. He sued the BBC for unfair dismissal and race discrimination, claiming he was unfairly targeted because of his support for Sri Lankan Tamils.

While the majority of the allegations against Bandara were either proved or partially proved, the tribunal found that the written warning over the prince’s birth was a significant factor in Bandara’s dismissal – described as "manifestly inappropriate" for an employee with such a previously good record.

Employment judge Vivienne Gay said: “We are satisfied that Mr Gonis was significantly influenced by the fact that Mr Bandara did not have a clean disciplinary record. That is the final written warning.

“So the dismissal… was unfair. An inappropriate warning played a part in that. But we are satisfied that there was culpable conduct that contributed to the dismissal."

Evidence of the subsequent misconduct led the tribunal to cut Bandara’s award and compensation by 50 per cent. He was given £51,428 in compensation, and £1,200 in costs; his racial discrimination claims were unsuccessful.

A BBC spokesperson said: "The BBC takes disciplinary matters very seriously and we are disappointed with the outcome of this unfair dismissal claim. We note that the tribunal reduced the compensation awarded to Mr Bandara and we will review the full decision of the tribunal carefully when it is available."

Added: 23-09-2016
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