Judge refuses to reinstate Knaresborough town crier. FULL STORY

Knaresborough Town Crier Simon Shaw in  Knaresborough next to the market cross.
Knaresborough Town Crier Simon Shaw in Knaresborough next to the market cross.
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A judge has refused to give the former Knaresborough town crier his job back, ruling that he must be paid £570 compensation for unfair dismissal.

Knaresborough Town Council and Knaresborough Chamber of Trade admitted unfairly dismissing Simon Shaw after he was suspended from duties in August 2012 following complaints relating to lateness and not keeping the town crier uniform in the allocated location.

Mr Shaw dismissed these complaints as malicious “tittle tattle” before asking a judge to reinstate him as town crier at a hearing in Leeds.

Mr Shaw told the court: “Reinstatement has been the only thought in my head for a year.

“I am not here for money, I am just here to clear my name get back in the job.”

Mr Shaw stressed how important the role had been to him over the years since his appointment in 2009.

He added: “If the council or the Chamber of Trade offered me money and got rid of me I don’t know what would happen to me. I have lived off a pittance for years, money isn’t important to me.”

Judge John Hepworth turned down Mr Shaw’s request and ruled that he should be paid £570.87 in compensation, including wages for the past four years he worked unpaid as town crier and compensation for loss of employment.

Although he was reinstated in October 2012 following an independent investigation his contract terminated at the end of 2012, despite a petition in support of Mr Shaw gathering over 600 signatures.

Until two months ago Knaresborough Town Council denied that Mr Shaw had been an employee, claiming the town crier role was voluntary.

At a pre-hearing review in May an employment tribunal concluded that Mr Shaw was an employee entitling him to bring a complaint of unfair dismissal against his former employers.

Less than a month later Knaresborough Town Council conceded unfair dismissal.

Mr Shaw, a bi-polar sufferer, told the court the ordeal of the past few months had affected his health.

He was represented at the employment tribunal by friend and cafe owner, Gary Simmons, who has no legal training.

Mr Simmons condemned the Knaresborough Chamber of Trade and Commerce for not sending a representative, despite being listed as the second respondent.

He said: “The chamber seem to have ignored any thing to do with this and have previously told the press they want nothing to do with it.”

Mr Shaw criticised chair of Knaresborough Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Maurice Bardon, for his behaviour towards him.

He recalled a meeting when Mr Bardon told him “you are not fit for the job” over a dozen times and said: “I found the man hostile, I found him bullying, I put up with it for three years then thought, no, this man is making me ill.”

Mr Bardon said the Chamber of Trade were not required to send a representative and were happy to abide by the judges ruling.

Knaresborough Mayor, Carole Reid who represented Knaresborough Town Council told the tribunal the council “would resist” Mr Shaw’s reinstatement as town crier.

“The resolution the town council came to is that we would resist reinstating on the same terms as it was ambiguous relation between three parties.

She added: “Various things have been said and done and there has been a loss of confidence in Mr Shaw. Partly due to the reasons for suspension but also due to what has happened afterwards.

“The council has tried to act in good faith and following advice we kept things confidential but things have still got into the press.”

Ultimately Judge Hepworth agreed not to reinstate Mr Shaw on the grounds that it would be impractical.

He said: “Mr Shaw was very unusually employed by two employers.

“The claimant clearly wanted to be reinstated therefore the issue comes down to practicalities. I agree with the submission by the first respondent (Knaresborough Town Council) that the relationship between respondent and claimant has broken down irrevocably.

“It is clear there was, and still is, a significant amount of tension between the claimant and first respondent.”

He added: “This was not one sided, the claimant (Simon Shaw) contributed to the relationship break down.”

Speaking after the hearing Mr Bardon said: “We all need to stop looking back on the town crier and start to look forward to the exciting things happening in Knaresborough over the next year, the Christmas market and the Tour de France.

“This hasn’t been a pleasant experience for any of us, so we all need to take time to reflect and learn our lessons before moving on.”

He added: “We will also need to decide whether to get another town crier for Knaresborough.”

Andy Wright, Knaresborough town councillor and long time supporter of Simon Shaw said he was saddened by the whole saga.

He said the amount of time and resources dedicated to the case had limited the councils role in Knaresborough.

“We are here to fight for the rights of the town and the people in town but instead everything else has gone on the back burner while this has gone on.”

Coun Reid, speaking independently of the council said: “There are no winners in a situation like this.

“I am sure the council are pleased that the judge agreed with them with regards to the irreconcilable differences.”

She added: “I wish Simon well for the future, I really do.”

Mr Shaw has hinted that he will now look into becoming an independent town crier.

“Watch this space,” he said outside of the tribunal.