Whistleblowers: Serial litigant accuses race council of racism

November 15, 2002

The race equality watchdog has joined a growing list of institutions accused of racism by former Greenwich University lecturer Suresh Deman.

The THES reported last week that Mr Deman, a business lecturer of Asian origin, has made dozens of separate tribunal claims against at least 13 universities, including several claims against Greenwich that were partly upheld by the Ashford tribunal. It has now emerged that Mr Deman is pursuing two court cases against the Commission for Racial Equality, claiming race discrimination.

It is understood that Mr Deman has a history of disputes with the CRE over its lack of support for his legal actions. In a letter to the CRE's complaints officer last month, Mr Deman claims the commission's decision not to provide him with legal assistance to fight his case against Greenwich was "a racist decision".

In a subsequent letter after his partial victory this month, he demands a public apology from the CRE for failing to support him, and claims the CRE's complaints officer is "operating under the institutionally racist constraints put in place by the CRE". He writes: "The CRE and its legal committee's decision refusing assistance was nothing but an ongoing campaign of discrimination and victimisation against me."

He adds: "It appears most of those running the CRE got big jobs for shining white-men shoes (sic) in the Labour Party rather than on their real merit. Please be advised to provide me the name and racial origin of the commissioner who thought my dismissal (from Greenwich) was fair so that I could ask him to resign with an apology. Hopefully an apology would be on its way before I call a press conference to unmask the mask faces (sic) in the CRE."

The CRE confirmed it was facing two court cases from Mr Deman, and said it strongly denied all allegations, and would defend itself vigorously.

Vice-chancellors are growing increasingly alarmed by the volume of litigation initiated by Mr Deman. One, who has had no direct experience of Mr Deman, said: "Serial litigants are becoming a very serious issue for all public institutions. Even when we win we never see our costs recovered."

According to the national register of employment tribunal cases, Mr Deman made claims against three higher education institutions in 2002 - the European School of Economics, Bradford University and Sheffield University - and nine in 2001. Mr Deman made seven complaints in 2000. It is understood that Mr Deman sometimes makes job applications using the name of THES reporter Phil Baty to provide a fictional white comparator.

When Mr Deman appealed against a decision by the London Tribunal to throw out his claims against London Business School, appeal judge Daniel Serota, QC, noted in his judgment last August that Mr Deman may have "something of a reputation for making bad applications and then seeking to adjourn them at the last moment", although the judge said there was only anecdotal evidence to support this.

Mr Deman had failed to show up to the original hearing, and Judge Serota said the tribunal had "found that part of his application was out of time, part of it was unsubstantiated by any evidence as he was not there and the tribunal considered that his conduct of the proceedings, rather than the merits of the proceedings themselves, was frivolous and vexatious". The appeal judge nevertheless reversed the decision to award costs against Mr Deman for his failed case.

Mr Deman strongly denied he was a vexatious litigant. He pointed to a written statement by barrister John Davies, who represented him in some of his cases. Mr Davies writes that Mr Deman is a "fundamentally honest" witness and "a great deal of his evidence is (or is likely to be found to be) correct".

"In some limited (often minor) areas he can apply hindsight to come to the conclusion that he has been discriminated against, when (to my mind) the likelihood is that he has not been," he says. "I do not doubt the genuineness of the ensuing belief that discrimination has occurred. I would not regard him as being (or being remotely close to being) a 'vexatious litigant'. He has said, and I believe him, that he has exercised care in determining which rejections he considers to be racially motivated and which he considers to be capable of objective justificationI to my mind a 'persistent litigant' would be a much more accurate description."

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