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Vista Hotels to pay £11,000 to former head chef after sacking him while in prison

06 July 2015 by
Vista Hotels to pay £11,000 to former head chef after sacking him while in prison

James Harvey

Vista Hotels has to pay £11,000 to a former head chef after a tribunal ruled he was unfairly dismissed while in prison serving an 18-month sentence for GBH.

James Harvey, 37, who worked at the four-AA-star Fermain Valley hotel in St Peter Port, Guernsey, was convicted of grievous bodily harm in April last year after he bit two special constables and then spat the blood of his victims over other officers who attended.

He has now successfully claimed that the hotel company did not carry out the correct dismissal procedure, as they failed to notify him of their decision while he was in prison.

The tribunal found that the hotel, operated by Vista Hotels, had a potentially fair reason for dismissal, but it had failed to undergo the proper procedure. It was criticised for not carrying out its own investigation into the incident and for not interviewing Harvey in prison to get his version of events.

The tribunal heard that Harvey was not formally notified of his dismissal until nearly six months after his arrest. The hotel claimed to have sent a letter to Harvey while he was in prison, but could not find a copy of it and the prison had no record of it.

After being ordered to pay Harvey £11,156, Tim Coates, commercial director of Vista Hotels, said he was "disgusted" and described the decision as "ridiculous". He said Harvey had effectively been rewarded for his crimes despite not paying any compensation to his victims.

"The nature of James Harvey's criminal actions were so severe that it resulted in him being sentenced to 18 months for multiple accounts of GBH and assault to local police, hotel staff, damage to property, resisting arrest and bringing the company into disrepute," he said.

Coates said Harvey had been working as head chef when the hotel was about to launch two new restaurants in April 2014. He said the menus and marketing all had to be redrafted, which impacted on the openings.

Derek Coates, chairman of Vista Hotels, said: "There cannot be one policeman in Guernsey who would not be outraged, indignant and affronted by [this] employment tribunal ruling.

"If such acts as Harvey's do not warrant instant dismissal then heaven knows what does. It would have been reasonable for the tribunal to simply accept that Fermain had made a technical procedural error and award Harvey a nominal £1.

"This is not about money. If the tribunal should be minded to change their order, I will personally donate the sum of £11,000 to police headquarters to pay the sums owed to the officers and to use the balance for their Christmas party or a charity of their choice."

Harvey, originally from Deal, Kent, took on the role of head chef at the Fermain Valley hotel after working for two hotels in West Sussex - the Felbridge and Gravetye Manor. He also previously worked as a chef at the Montagu Arms in Beaulieu in the New Forest.

However his reputation came into disrepute when he became involved in a violent attack on 9 March 2014.

Harvey was dismissed following a violent incident in staff accommodation between Harvey and his then girlfriend after a couple of drinks. Police were called and Harvey assaulted one of the police officers and a special constable with his teeth, breaking one officer's finger by biting it and then chewing the other officer's leg. A court in Guernsey heard that he spat blood at the two policemen and had to be restrained with his own t-shirt.

The official tribunal ruling read: "The tribunal was persuaded that the complete absence of a disciplinary process with no right of appeal did not fall within the band of reasonable responses open to an employer in justifying the fairness of a summary dismissal on the grounds of gross misconduct for a first disciplinary offence."

Harvey worked at Fermain Valley hotel from February 2013 until April 2014 when he was convicted. He is believed to currently be living in Kent.

Harvey has so far been unavailable to comment.

Fermain Valley hotel

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