Ladele v Islington – was there a conflict of interest?

The extreme decision of an employment tribunal in the case of Ladele vs Islington (pdf), that of the registrar who claimed to have discriminated against on religious ground for refusing to officiate in civil partnership ceremonies, has naturally drawn a considerable amount of attention amongst bloggers.

Thus far, the general consensus amongt legal bloggers is that the tribunal’s ruling is, at best, extreme, if not bordering on perverse and in the days since the ruling it transpires that Ms Ladele, whose views on marriage were described in the judgement as follows…

“Ms Ladele is a Christian. Her unchallenged evidence was that she holds the orthodox Christian view that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of all others and that marriage is the God-ordained place for sexual relations”

“She could not reconcile her faith with taking an active part in enabling same-sex unions to be formed.

“She told us that she believed this to be contrary to God’s instructions that sexual relations belong exclusively between a man and a woman within marriage.”

turns out to be a single mother who gave birth to a son, out of wedlock, at the age of 20 (hat-tip Harry’s Place).

Being a rather cynical and suspicious sort, when I see reactions to a judgement as strong as this one, from the excellent Head of Legal…

How on earth can the Tribunal have concluded this was direct discrimination? Direct discrimination is where you treat someone less favourably than others not because they refuse to perform this, that or the other duty, but because they are female, or black, or a Christian. That has plainly not happened here: the Tribunal has fallen into the obvious error of thinking that, because Ms. Ladele’s beliefs are in direct conflict with a duty to carry out civil partnership ceremonies, it follows that requiring her to carry them directly discriminates against her. It doesn’t. Nothing could be plainer than that what happened here was at most indirect discrimination.

…then I start to wonder whether there isn’t a little something missing from the overall picture, something that might explain how and/or why an employment tribunal chaired by a seemingly experienced Judge can manage to make what seems to be such a basic error – and when my “something’s not quite right” bump starts itching then, as regular readers should know well, that’s the point at which I start to do a bit of digging – and, in this case, I may have hit on what is possibly a very  interesting little bit of paydirt.

If there’s a ‘secret’ to investigative blogging then, other than having a knack of getting the best of search engines, it lies in thinking ‘out of the box’ and coming at things from angles that others have overlooked.

So, while there has been much commentary, already, on the content of the tribunal’s judgement in this case, what no one has, as yet, questioned is the composition of the Tribunal itself.

In general, employment tribunals are heard either a chairman, sitting alone, or by a panel consisting of three members.

In all cases, the chairman is drawn from the legal profession and will be either a judge, or in some cases an experienced barrister. In panel hearings, the chairman is supported by two ‘wingmen’, on drawn a trade union background and the other from the business community, giving a notionally balanced representation from both employees and employers.

The Ladele case was heard, as the judgement indicates, by a panel consisting of Judge AM Lewzey and two wingmen, Mrs D May and Mr CJ Storr.

Of the three, Lewzey is the easiest to trace by way of the name cropping up in a small number of Employment Appeals Tribunal cases in which decisions taken by tribunals chair by Lewzey were questioned. That said, reading these judgements, it does not seem that Lewzey is particular prone to making the kind of basic errors, in fact she seems altogether rather competent and rarely has decision overturned at appeal – all of which makes the Ladele ruling all the more puzzling.

Mrs D May we’ll have to set aside for the time being – its such a common name that there’s almost no chance of pinning down the right Mrs Ma without additional information – all of which leaves us with CJ Storr who, on name alone, seems to offer a rather more promising line of enquiry…

…and sure enough, a search of the London area turns up only one CJ Storr who, it turns out, is most definitely female and, therefore, out of running.

However, the case was heard at the Central London tribunal and people commute, so we need to cast our need somewhat further afield, in which case it doesn’t take long for a possible candidate for ‘our’ CJ Storr to turn up on the radar in the form of a Mr Christopher John Storr of, ironically enough given the circumstances, Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

Now, based on the limited information we have to hand from freely available public records, we can’t be certain that Christopher John Storr is the same CJ Storr who sat on the panel in the Ladele case but there are one or two things that suggest that we may be on the right track, not least of which being that Storr has an entry on the register of company directors which, if we’ve got the right man, would cast him as the employer’s wingman in the case, leaving Mrs D May as the trade union representative.

And if we do have the right CJ Storr here, then any appeal that Islington Council mounts may be about to get a whole lot more interesting because a search for references to our Kent-based CJ [Christopher John] Storr turns up a couple of rather interesting items of information.

For example, an advert placed in the International Catholic Weekly, The Tablet, in April 2007 (pdf) identifies Christopher Storr as the chairman of the governance committee of an independent Roman Catholic girls baording school in Mayfield, East Sussex – a matter of 9-10 miles from Tunbridge Wells:

St Leonards-Mayfield School
Catholic independent boarding and day school for over 430 girls aged 11-18, GSA CISC BSA

The Governors invite applications from practising Catholics for the post of


which will become vacant in September 2008 upon the retirement of Mrs Julia Dalton after eight years of distinguished service.

Applications are sought from outstanding candidates with the vision and enthusiasm to lead and further develop this highly successful and well respected School.

Full details may be obtained from the Clerk to the
Governors, Lt Col A.H. Bayliss, at the School, to whom
completed applications must be returned by 14 May 2007.

Potential candidates who would like an informal discussion
about the post are invited to telephone Mr Christopher Storr,Chairman of the Governance Committee, on xxxxx xxxxxx.

Elsewhere, Storr also crops up – as CJ Storr this time – in the minutes of the Kent School Organisation Committee in January 2007:

MINUTES of a meeting of the Kent School Organisation Committee held at Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone on Tuesday, 23 January 2007.

Kent County Council

Miss S J Carey, Mr BR Cope (substitute for Mr J Law), Ms C J Cribbon, Mr L B Ridings, Mr J Simmonds, and Mr R Truelove.

Church of England:

Revered David Arlington (substitute for Mr R Bristow (Vice-Chairman)) and Canon J Smith.

Kent Schools:

Mr D Colley, Dr P Huddle, Mrs C Reed, Mr D Russell, Mr P Sayer and Mr H Scobie.

Roman Catholic Church:

Mr D Brunning, Mr K Burleton, Mr J Grogan and Mr C J Storr (Chairman).

And last, but by no means least, CJ Storr crops up in this 2002 DFES response to a consultation on regulations governing financial liabilities of Voluntary Aided Schools (MS Word) in the list of consultees, although at the time, Storr was listed as the Director of Education of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark.

You can see where this is going… if the CJ Storr who sat as a wingman on the Ladele hearing is the same Christopher John Storr who, at 68 years of age, must surely be the retired former Director of Education of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark then we have one hell of a conflict of interest on our hands here, given the nature of the Catholic Church’s doctrinal views on homosexuality and outright opposition to civil partnerships. In fact, the conflict of interest is such that Storr could, and probably should, have recused himself from hearing the case on discovering that it related to a religious discrimination claim in which the plaintiff had sought to avoid officiating in civil partnership ceremonies on ‘religious’ ground.

All this, of course, counts for nothing if we’ve got the wrong CJ Storr, but at the very least the question has to be asked and answered in the interests of justice.

  • Oh don’t start me on this crap, it pains me that people’s backwards views, based upon Bronze Age thinking, are given any creedence at all, when in reality they should be politely dismissed as twaddle.

    It’s funny though because her beliefs on marriage perfectly echo that of Christ.

  • On the issue of direct vs indirect discrimination, a charge of indirect discrimination has to show that the discrimination does not arise from a genuine occupational requirement.

    In other words, it could only be indirect discrimination if it was not part of a registrars job to officiate in civil partnership ceremonies.

    This is the equivalent of a dwarf suing the LA Lakers for not making him a professional basketball player.

  • Tim F,

    Um Ms. Ladele most probably started her job as an officiator for marriages between man and woman; your metaphor only works if the dwarf was forced with menaces to play to the same standards as Kobe Bryant, having started out in the administration department and drafted due to a managerial decision.


    Big deal – one of the individuals on the panel had viewpoints that might not necessarily reflect those of the employer – thats kind of the point; a point, I might add, that you make here:

    In panel hearings, the chairman is supported by two

  • the difference comes when we simply give our lives to a better manager”

    Please excuse my rudeness but hahaha aha hahaha! Better manger. That’s a good ‘un, that is.

    What Christians fail to understand is that atheists would rather take responsibilty for their actions and make their own choices rather than delagate them to something else that probably doesn’t exist via a load of people that have and will continue to minipulate the original messege (whatever that was) to meet their own ends (however conscious that deception is).

  • Paul.Ferrari

    Ms. Ladele most probably started her job as an officiator for marriages between man and woman

    Absolutely, as probably when she started her job, it wasn’t possible for Men to marry Men and for Women to marry Women – but it is possible now, and as her job is to marry people, she should either do her job and shut up or leave her job and not complain about it.

  • Sim-O,

    I agree fully with personal responsibility – the difference is that I (try to) govern the way I conduct my life by biblical principles, not mans.


    Absolutely, as probably when she started her job, it wasn

  • Patrick Walsh

    What’s this?

    Hypocracy from a religious person?

    Whatever next?

  • Patrick Walsh

    ‘What’s next?’

    How about… another question?

  • Davey L

    Tomrat claims that ‘the rules governing her role had changed and she was unable to meet the new requirements – she was thus disenfranchised.’ She wasn’t unable to perform the ceremony, she was unwilling to perform them and refused. That is her choice and as such she was not fulfilling the obligations of her job.

    A change in policy is not relevant. Most of us have situations where our job changes over time and we are obliged to change also. I have a role in implementing Health and Safety legislation in my own workplace. I can’t decide to refuse to implement new legislation just because I don’t like it. I have to either work with the changes or resign. If her personal views so conflicted with her professional duties then the ethical thing to do would be resign.

    I’d be delighted to see how this goes on appeal.

  • Peter Curtis

    It may be helpful to set out some essential truths about the furore surrounding the case of the errant registrar of Islington, before the current controversy gets out of hand and for reference in the all to likely occurrence of similar events in future.

    Registrars are public servants and as such are subject to general conditions of service applicable to all employed by the state. A principle condition is that a public servant shall be impartial. This requires them to carry out their statutory duties serving and respecting all people regardless of their gender, marital status, race, ethnic origin, religion, age, political affiliation, sexual orientation or physical and mental capability.

    In this present case the fault lies with the Employment Tribunal that failed to take due and proper regard of the conditions of service of registrars as public servants. This particular registrar sought to impose her own partial and discriminatory conditions of service on her employers. The tribunals should have dismissed her case out of hand. Having concluded that her conditions of employment were unacceptable, the registrar’s only option was to seek alternative employment. To paraphrase: ‘Render unto the state the things which are the state’s; …’ Affiliation to a fantasy ideology does not excuse. End of story.

  • Hang on, shouldn’t someone who has very religious views on marriage not be conducting secular services? After all, orthodox Christians would hold that you are not married unless it was conducted by the right minister of religion in a place of worship.

    She was already compromising by being a registrar.

  • Paul.Ferrari

    Tomrat – I really don’t think I need to answer, as Davey L and Peter Curtis has summed it up so much better than I could.

  • N

    Er, no, Danivon. Orthodox Christians do not hold that “you are not married unless it was conducted by the right minister of religion in a place of worship.” I just wonder where you got that information from? I believe that marriage ought to be conducted through a religious service to ask for a blessing on the marriage from God, and to thank Him for his goodness. Someone not married by a minister, but by a registar is still recognised as married by Christians.

  • I said ‘orthodox’ not ‘Orthodox’. There is a subtle difference, and perhaps the word ‘conservative’ or ‘traditional’. However, there have been several periods when various churches have taken it upon themselves to declare that only marriages witnessed by a minister are valid (the abolition of the ‘Newgate Marriage’ was one example in England).
    But as I understand the Eastern Church’s doctrine, a wedding is significantly more bound up in sacrament than in the West – grace is conferred upon the couple by the priest, rather than him being a witness to it. Only bishops and priests can perform a marriage. Marriage is also seen as a martyrdom and a joint pilgrimage. (I have been to Greece quite a few times, and my uncle lived there for a decade or so and was fluent, so that’s my source)

    Additionally, there is a movement, particularly in the US, which is trying to declare that indeed ‘marriage’ is a religious institution and that any civil wedding should not actually result in a ‘marriage’ – it’s an outgrowth of the opposition to Gay marriage.

    You yourself say that “marriage ought to be conducted through a religious service to ask for a blessing on the marriage from God”. So does that mean that you think people who did not do that are not married?