A telephone conversation, overheard in the FRU office, several years ago:
Mr Smith, you’ve told me what happened. It seems to me that basically you’re saying that your ex-boss is a bit of a git.
Now, I’ve heard what you’ve got to say, and I’ve read the documents. You know what? I agree. He is a bit of a git.
So, what’s going to happen next, is that we’ll turn up to the tribunal on Monday and they’ll hear the case. And I bet they’ll think he’s a bit of a git too.
The problem, Mr Smith, is that being a bit of a git isn’t actually against the law.
The moral of the story is that tribunals are there to decide whether the respondent has broken the law, not to make general judgements about the parties involved.
Often litigants (on both sides) will spend a lot of time and effort throwing mud at each other about their business practices; quality of work; management decisions; criminal records; sexual morality and even personal hygiene.
Sometimes this is relevant. A capacity case, for example will often revolve around the claimant’s competence in their job. And if the claimant’s case is that the problems had been caused by inadequate support by his management their decisions will need to be examined. In a whistle-blowing case you may spend a good deal of time considering the respondent’s efforts to avoid their obligations to Her Majesties Revenue and Customs or the Health and Safety Executive.
Even if it is not strictly speaking relevant, mud slinging can be effective. A tribunal who feels that one side has been hard done by or mistreated is likely to be influenced by that impression. Trying to make yourself look good at the expense of the other side is part of the game.
But the old adage about it being hard to throw mud without getting some of it on you applies. Irrelevant accusations or criticisms will almost always do you more harm than good. Making accusations without evidence makes you look paranoid.
In general, therefore, it is sensible to keep all blows above the belt. Always remember that your aim is to prove your case, not prove that your opponent is a bad sort.