LOSES: High Court Challenge to PM’s Decision to Back Priti Patel After Standards Investigation into Bullying Allegations

  • High Court defeats civil servants union in Priti Patel Standards case
  • Judges found that PM didn’t misdirect himself regarding ministerial code provisions
  • Boris Johnson stood with the Home Secretary following bullying accusations 

An association representing top civil servants lost an appeal to High Court over Boris Johnson’s decision not to support Priti Patel after bullying accusations.

FDA Union brought in a judicial review of the PM’s actions, which were contrary to the conclusions of his former adviser on ministerial standards.

In a joint ruling, Lady Justice Steyn and Lord Justice Lewis dismissed the claim.

Lord Justice Lewis concluded, however that Johnson did not misdirect himself regarding the Ministerial Code.

“The judge stated that it was up to the court whether or not the Prime Minister proceeded based on paragraph 1.2, which defines bullying as conduct where the perpetrator is not aware of or intends the offence or harm.

“Reading (Mr Johnson’s) statement as a whole and considering the context, we don’t believe that the Prime Minister was misdirected in any way.”

Sir Alex Allan published a November 2013 investigation on Ms Patel’s behavior and found that she hadn’t always treated civil servants with respect.

The FDA union brought a judicial review over Boris Johnson (pictured) going against the findings of his then-adviser on ministerial standards last year

Boris Johnson, the former adviser to his ministerial standards was subject to a judicial hearing by FDA union (pictured).

Lord Justice Lewis concluded that Mr Johnson had not misdirected himself as to the provisions of the Ministerial Code when reaching his decision about whether to back Priti Patel (pictured)

Lord Justice Lewis concluded that Mr Johnson had not misdirected himself as to the provisions of the Ministerial Code when reaching his decision about whether to back Priti Patel (pictured)

His conclusion was that “Her behavior on occasion has been described as bullying, in terms of how it affects individuals.” She has, to that extent, violated the Ministerial Code even though she did not intend it.

Johnson was the arbitrator of the Ministerial Code and said that the Home Secretary wasn’t aware of her impact. He was also reassured that she would be’sorry’ for inadvertently causing upset among those she was working with.

He concluded that the code was not violated after weighing all factors.

Last month’s hearing saw lawyers representing the FDA argue that Mr Johnson misunderstood the word ‘bullying” in the Ministerial Code to determine if Ms Patel had treated civil servants contrary to its standards.

They claimed he misinterpreted the law in arriving at his decision.

Johnson’s lawyers argued that Mr Johnson’s FDA claim was “not valid” and there was no error in law.

According to them, the Ministerial Code “doesn’t create any legal obligations for ministers or prime ministers” and is ‘not required by law’. Its contents, however, are not regulated under law.

The Prime Minister’s lawyer claimed that the code was a political document’ which ‘not about protecting civil servants’ rights, but still has access to ‘all the employment law rights.

In a statement following the decision, FDA General Secretary Dave Penman stated that while the claim was dismissed overall by the union, the judgement is an “important step forward” in the fight to hold ministers accountable for the behavior they have displayed in the workplace.

He stated: “The court found that the Prime Minister didn’t acquit The Home Secretary of Bullying, and that Sir Alex Allan did not find that her behaviour was bullying.

“This will be a comfort to civil servants who bravely came forward to give evidence in the probe into Home Secretary’s conduct.

“While it was decided by the court that the Prime Minister had the right to not dismiss the Home Secretary but the decision has significant implications for civil servants protection in the future.

The union indicated that they will file a claim for the full payment of legal fees by the Government in light of the verdict, even though the general dismissal was not reached.