An employment tribunal has awarded former News of the World sports reporter Matt Driscoll £792,736 in compensation after finding he was unfairly sacked and discriminated against on the grounds of disability.
Before he was sacked in April 2007 he had been on long-term sick leave for stress related depression.
Stratford Employment Tribunal said of his dismissal: “We find the behaviour to have been a consistent pattern of bullying behaviour… with the intention to remove him from their employment, whether through negotiating a settlement package or through a staged process of warnings leading to dismissal.
“The original source of the hostility towards the claimant [Driscoll] was Mr Coulson, the then editor of the News of the World; although other senior managers either took their lead from Mr Coulson and continued with his motivation after Mr Coulson’s departure; or shared his views themselves.”
Coulson – now chief spin doctor for the Conservative Party – resigned as News of the World editor in January 2007 after royal correspondent Clive Goodman was jailed for four months for intercepting the mobile phone messages of royal aides.
Driscoll joined the paper in 1997 and was promoted twice between then and 2001. That year he was moved from the North East of England to London and told he would be put on a salary of £50,000.
Driscoll believes he fell foul of editor Coulson in late 2004 when the editor tipped him off that Arsenal were planning to play in purple shirts. Arsenal FC denied the story – but it appeared in The Sun three months later.
Driscoll claims that sports editor Mike Dunn said to him: “Coulson will be on the warpath over this. We are dead.” Dunn denied having that conversation.
Driscoll was given a first warning in October 2005 because some disputed quotes were not backed up by a verbatim note.
After this NoW managing editor Stuart Kuttner sent Coulson an email saying: “Of course we could still fire him: and pay the going rate for that. Mike Dunn tells me Discoll can’t be got shot off?”
Driscoll wrote a letter complaining about his discplinary warning to which Coulson replied: “In my view your actions on this matter merited dismissal”.
The tribunal described this as “a bullying remark”.
Before being dismissed finally, Driscoll was given a series of warnings.
But the judgment said: ‘The impression given us, from reading the documentation and considering the evidence as a whole, was that the senior management team were going through a cynical process of giving an appearance of fairness towards him.
“By giving him a first warning, final warning and then dismissal, they hope to avoid a successful unfair dismissal claim.”
The tribunal heard that when editor Coulson found out Driscoll was off sick he sent an email to his deputy editor saying: ‘I want him out quickly and cheaply.’
Dirscoll told the Guardian today: ‘Andy Coulson was at the heart of all of this. He should look at himself and decide if his actions in the course of the way I was treated were correct. If I were him, I would find it very hard to look in the mirror. I was subjected to unprecedented bullying and he did nothing to stop it, if anything he accelerated it. I didn’t do anything wrong.
“I was in the top 30 sports writers in the country. I then came up against the venom of Andy Coulson, which I found very hard to take. It has taken an incredible amount of strength to take on the richest news group in the world and win. I don’t think anyone has ever done that before with the success that I have.”