Tribunals miss race point, says lecturer

August 25, 1995

A law lecturer at Manchester University has spoken out against the lay industrial tribunal system, which he says is failing victims of race discrimination in higher education.

Asif Qureshi, who is appealing against a tribunal which recently found against him, said that he believed the lay system was inadequate to deal with the complex race cases which tended to occur within universities because the discrimination alleged is complex and subtle.

"A lay tribunal can too easily miss this but even if their instinct is in sympathy with the victim, the high standard of proof required can prevent effective remedy," he said.

Dr Qureshi is being supported by lawyers from the Commission for Racial Equality who agree with his anxieties about the tribunal system.

Milgun Izzet, principal legal officer at the CRE, said tribunals were more used to dealing with comparatively straightforward cases when individuals will often admit to a charge of, say, unfair dismissal but would never admit that actions were on the grounds of race.

She said: "In general race cases are very difficult to prove, the discrimination is very subtle and you are often left with merely inferences. Even if members of the tribunal feel discrimination has taken place, proof is often extremely difficult to find."

Dr Qureshi went to tribunal because he claimed he had been discriminated against on racial grounds by being refused promotion, and then victimised after making a complaint.

In a majority verdict of two to one the tribunal found in the university's favour although it also unanimously agreed that Dr Qureshi had been subject to a detriment under the terms of the Race Relations Act 1976. Dr Qureshi will appeal against those allegations found not to have been proven by two members of the tribunal.

Manchester University said: "We take these matters very seriously but given that the case is subject to appeal we don't feel it is appropriate to comment at this stage."

In the appeal Dr Qureshi will claim that the tribunal system is not capable of dealing with unconscious discrimination in the professions, particularly in specialist areas, and that there is inadequate scope for calling expert evidence.

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