Lecturer sues over 'mental injury'

5th January 2001 at 00:00
A psychology lecturer is to sue his former college after his office was demolished with all his teaching materials inside and he suffered a mental breakdown.

Michael Laidler, now 51, had worked at New College, Durham, for 14 years when the incident took place in 1995. He claims he returned to work after the summer holidays to find that his office had been demolished with lecture notes, books and personal belongings still inside.

Mr Laidler, a former police detective who was a course leader responsible for A-levels, BTecs, GCSEs and employee training schemes, attempted to continue working but went on sick leave because of stress a few weeks afterwards. His condition worsened and he later retired on grounds of ill-health.

He was originally sent a letter informing him of the refurbishment work and had packed his belongings during the summer break. But when he arrived at college on the first day of term in September 1995 he found workmen had sealed off his office ready for demolition.

He says he college did not offer him alternative accommodation and subsequently appointed a colleague to his job without his knowledge. At the time he was one of a handful of staff at the college who had refused to give up their Silver Book conditions and sign a new contract.

Mr Laidler had to wait three years to get his personal belongings back from the college, which has always denied responsibility for what happened.

The college withheld his salary but made an out-of-court settlement of several thousand pounds in back pay in 1997 just before an industrial tribunal hearing. A second tribunal the following year found that he had suffered "mental injury".

Mr Laidler has made an official complaint to the parliamentary ombudsman with the support of his local MP Gerry Steinberg.

"My life has been shattered and I am unable to work," he said.

Mr Laidler's claim for loss of earnings and personal injury begins on January 22 and is expected to last a week. The college declined to comment.

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