Employment tribunal hears assault row after council officer flicked colleague's ear

This Is Wiltshire: An employment tribunal has heard how a row erupted within a Swindon Council team after an officer flicked a colleague's ears An employment tribunal has heard how a row erupted within a Swindon Council team after an officer flicked a colleague's ears

A BITTER row erupted at a Swindon Council team tasked with tackling anti-social behaviour after an officer flicked a colleague's ears, a tribunal has heard.

Ian Napier was dismissed following a complaint by Debbie Chadwick-Edgar, who complained that she had been "assaulted" by the former police officer.

Mrs Chadwick-Edgar, a neighbourhood housing officer seconded to the team, reacted by punching Mr Napier before lodging a grievance saying she had been bullied.

She also complained that her chair was tampered with before she sat down for work one morning and she had been shunned by her teammates.

Mrs Chadwick-Edgar appeared as a witness for the council at Bristol Employment Tribunals yesterday. She was asked by Mr Napier, who is claiming unfair dismissal, when their working relationship broke down.

Mrs Chadwick-Edgar replied: "Our working relationship changed when you hit me on the head or flicked my ear. It was behind me and I jumped and I instinctively punched you. I was uncomfortable with my own behaviour and uncomfortable with what you did." Mr Napier asked: "Do you agree there was a lot of banter, a lot of horseplay, within the team?" Mrs Chadwick-Edgar replied: "It was never play.

"I don't understand who would play in the office by physically assaulting another person, because that's what it was to me."

Mrs Edgar-Chadwick estimated that she was flicked on the ear or on the back of the head up to 12 times during a five or six-week period.

Another flashpoint occurred when she arrived to work at the Anti-Social Behaviour team to find her chair had been tampered with.

She said: "The top of the seat was pushed down, the lumbar part was fully inflated, the seat had been pushed back and the back was down.

"It was for someone about 4ft to sit in."

Mr Napier, representing himself, asked his former colleague if she realised there was an office nearby where people took chairs for meetings.

He said: "Is it right you stood up and called me and my colleagues f-ing b******s and the 'C' word?" The former anti-social behaviour investigator denied using the 'C' word but admitted using the other profanity as she felt she had again been singled out. She said: "I was concerned I also lost control when I felt completely bullied and victimised by the rest of the team. As a result I got upset and swore."

Mrs Edgar-Chadwick, who was seconded to the team in summer last year, broke down in tears and later lodged a written complaint about the ear-flicking, the tampering with the chair and Mr Napier "goading" her.

She was taken to a disciplinary but was found to have been provoked.

Mr Napier, a former firearms officer, suggested that she had found him difficult to work with because of his strong opinions.

She replied: "We didn't really work together. We were in the same team but we didn't work on the same cases."

The tribunal also heard evidence from Tony Howell, who had worked with the team in Wat Tyler House, Beckhampton Street, before quitting his job in January.

He said he had also had his ears flicked by Mr Napier.

But when asked by Mr Napier why he hadn't made a formal complaint, he replied: "I'm not a complaining type. I wouldn't raise a grievance for that personally. If I didn't like something I would just move on to be honest with you. It would have been a waste of time, if you knew that it upset me you would have done it even more."

Mr Howell told the tribunal he left the council while Mr Napier was suspended because he couldn't face the prospect of having to work with him again.

Simon Evans, the team's former line manager, also gave evidence for the council, saying both Mr Napier and Mrs Chadwick-Edgar expected an apology from the other.

He said: "I felt like a flipping nanny between a lot of children to be perfectly honest."

Mr Napier asked his former boss why he hadn't "specifically" suggested a meeting to clear the air between himself and Mrs Chadwick-Edgar.

Mr Evans, who passed the matter to the council's HR department, replied: "I don't think I said it, I could have suggested something. Again, it was a long time ago."

Mr Napier was dismissed for his conduct after an investigation which led to two other members of the team being suspended and then reinstated. The tribunal continues today.

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