Martin Shipton
Wales Online
21 Mar 2012

AN EX-SOLDIER blinded by an IRA bomb while on active service in Northern Ireland will receive substantial compensation after an employment tribunal decided he had been harassed, victimised and made redundant because he was disabled.

Andrew Bull, 48, of Ebbw Vale, lost the sight in both eyes as a bomb exploded in Falls Road, Belfast while he was part of a four-man team from the Royal Regiment of Wales escorting police officers. Following the incident in November 1983 he attended a rehabilitation programme, and two years later was given a job as a telephonist by Blaenau Gwent council.

Mr Bull worked for the council for 25 years, but in 2010 he was made redundant. An employment tribunal hearing in Cardiff upheld his claim that he was harassed, victimised and discriminated against because of his disability.

The tribunal heard evidence that after a strike which took place in 2008 while Mr Bull was off work sick, unpleasant remarks were made to him by colleagues. His immediate line manager in the estates department, Andrew Offers, asked him whether he would be donating his two days pay to charity, while in Mr Bull’s hearing the council’s estates manager Ron Taylor said during a discussion with other workers, “Don’t worry, people only go on the sick.”

When Mr Bull challenged him, Mr Taylor walked away, muttering “Just go on the sick again”.

Mr Bull took out a grievance, but the matter was not properly investigated by the council.

Because of Mr Bull’s disability, officers had been in the habit of telling him when they were going out of the office. Some of them stopped doing so and ceased communicating with him.

Eventually Mr Bull was made redundant without proper consideration being given to how he could be redeployed after an office reorganisation.

The tribunal judgement said: “The claim of harassment relies on the behaviour of Mr Offers and Mr Taylor. It is clear that the conduct towards the claimant was unwanted. This relates to both aspects of the behaviour – the active comments and failure to communicate with the claimant.”

The tribunal concluded that Mr Bull’s claims of harassment and victimisation were well-founded, as was his claim that he had been discriminated against because of his disability.

Yesterday the tribunal heard complex legal arguments about how the award to Mr Bull should be calculated.

Mr Bull’s brother Stephen read a statement to the tribunal on the ex-serviceman’s behalf which said: “I do feel anger against the IRA terrorists who caused my blindness and disability. However, despite my loss of sight I was able to regain my independence and learn new employment skills with the support and specialist training from {the charity} Blind Veterans UK. The training I received plus the support from family and friends gave me the encouragement and confidence that I needed at that time to move forward with my life.

“Looking back I now know how fortunate I was to have survived such a terrorist explosion, unlike so many of my colleagues past and future who have paid the ultimate sacrifice of laying down their life.

“Despite losing my sight, I still counted my blessings. However, the long-term psychological damage that I have suffered as a direct result of my perceived inhumane treatment from Blaenau Gwent council and its senior management has been extremely damaging – especially the appalling manner in which they treated one of their disabled members of staff who they knew quite well as a local man who had lost his sight in the service of his country.”

Since being made redundant, Mr Bull has suffered from depression and doctors have assessed him as unfit to work for at least three years.

The hearing was adjourned until April 26 when Mr Bull will find out how much compensation he will receive.

Last night a spokeswoman for Blaenau Gwent council said: “The council is not in a position to comment on the outcome of any individual cases.”

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