Case of ex-magistrate blocked from NHS role for pro-family comments to be heard at Employment Appeal Tribunal22 January 2019 Issued by: Christian Legal Centre
A magistrate, removed by the NHS as a non-executive director for expressing the view that it is in a child’s best interests to be raised by a mother and a father, will be heard at the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Central London today (22 JAN).
The appeal of Richard Page could have significant consequences for anyone across society who expresses a Christian view in a public or even private social setting.
Mr Page is appealing the decision made by Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT), which removed him from his post after comments he made on the BBC in 2015. They unanimously decided that it was “not in the interests of the health service” for Mr Page to continue as a non-executive director because his actions were likely to have had a “negative impact” in people’s confidence in him as a local NHS leader.
Children do best with a father and a mother
In 2014, having served as a magistrate in Kent for 15 years, Richard expressed his view that children do best with a mother and a father, wherever possible, during a closed-door consultation with two other magistrates about an adoption case.
For this he was reported, and following an investigation was disciplined by the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice. He was told that his views about family life were discriminatory against same-sex couples and was barred from sitting as a magistrate until he had received ‘equality training’.
One complaint, 6,000 emails of support
In 2015, Mr Page spoke to the BBC about his experience, in the context of a news report about obstacles to freedom of religion or belief in the workplace. He explained: “My responsibility as a magistrate, as I saw it, was to do what I considered best for the child, and my feeling was therefore that it would be better if it was a man and woman who were the adoptive parents.”
His comments, however, prompted further investigation, and in March 2016 he was removed from the magistracy by the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice.
At the time, Richard, who has nearly 20 years’ experience as a finance director in the NHS, was serving a four-year term as a non-executive director of Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT). But just weeks after the decision to remove him from the magistracy, Richard was suspended from his role at the trust.
When his term as a non-executive director came up for renewal in June 2016, Richard expressed an interest to continue in the same role. But in August 2016, he was told that a panel convened to consider his suitability was unanimous that “it was not in the interests of the health service for you to serve as a non-executive director in the NHS.”
The panel believed that Richard’s actions, in expressing his beliefs about family life and in responding to his dismissal as a magistrate, were “likely to have had a negative impact on the confidence of staff, patients and the public in you as a local NHS leader.”
Mr Page was told that the panel’s view would be taken into account if he applied for a similar role in the NHS in the future. The panel had received only one complaint about Richard’s views, but was made aware of more than 6,000 emails supporting him and protesting at his suspension.
It is this decision to bar him from returning to his role as an NHS non-executive director that Mr Page challenged at an Employment Tribunal in February 2018, but the tribunal upheld the original decision. Now, Mr Page is appealing that ruling.
Outcome could have significant consequences
The outcome of today’s hearing could have significant consequences not just members of the judiciary or the NHS, but for anyone who expresses a Christian view in a public setting or even in a private social setting.
Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights allows everyone freedom of expression and has served to protect a wide range of offensive and provocative speech. For example, through Article 10, while in office former, Mayor of London Ken Livingstone won his appeal even though he had hurled abuse at a Jewish journalist calling him a German war criminal and concentration camp guard – far surpassing anything Mr Page has said.
The Christian Legal Centre is supporting Mr Page, who will be represented in court by the highly-experienced religious freedoms barrister, Paul Diamond.
An attack on the man and his views
Ahead of the appeal, Richard commented: “My desire to do the best for the child has been the paramount consideration throughout my time as a magistrate on the family panel. Yet by living out this belief, I have been drawn into a much bigger battle about my freedom, and the freedom of Christians more broadly, to express biblical truth in the public square.
“To my dismay, I have discovered the appalling anti-Christian attitude prevalent throughout much of the establishment.”
“It is deeply shocking that someone like me, who cares deeply about justice and freedom, and who has spent my whole life working to serve the community out of love for Jesus Christ, should now be punished in this way.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre added: “The trust’s decision to block Richard from returning to his role is an attack on the man and his views and nothing to do with the practical workings of the NHS. The freedom for Christians to hold and express their views is under threat.”