An RAF Lossiemouth firefighter sacked over allegations that he stole equipment and sold it online, yesterday lost his claim for unfair dismissal.
Neil Humphries, 47, took his employers, the Ministry of Defence, to an employment tribunal claiming the allegations were untrue and they were wrong to fire him in July last year.
He was alleged to have stolen equipment from the fire station at RAF Lossiemouth before selling the goods on eBay.
Following a three-day hearing in Inverness, employment judge Reg Christie and his two-man panel unanimously backed the MoD’s decision to sack Mr Humphries, who was not present to hear the judgement.
Mr Christie said it was not the tribunal’s place to determine whether Mr Humphries’ was guilty of the thefts or not – but said he was satisfied that the MoD had carried out a “fair and reasonable” investigation of its own.
An internal inquiry was launched by the Defence Fire and Risk Management Organisation (DFRMO) – the branch of the MoD which manages fire stations on military bases – in March last year after an eBay account linked to Mr Humphries was investigated by military police.
Among the items sold was a pair of black firefighters’ gloves, which fetched £17.30 in February last year, and were described as “used by the London fire brigade”.
Mr Humphries told investigators the eBay account belonged to his wife Deborah, and that the equipment had been bought by her at car boot sales to help him with his work.
Through solicitor Adelle Morris, the former firefighter criticised a number of aspects of the investigation into his conduct, including the lack of a full interview between him and the investigating manager.
However, Mr Christie found that “Mr Humphries was given all opportunities to put forward his case” by DFRMO HR manager Nik Green who managed his case.
Mr Christie said: “The one and only answer that Mr Humphries had was ‘It’s nothing to do with me, it’s my wife’s account.’
“The problem for Mr Green is that there was no objective evidence this was the case.”
Carrie Mitchell, representing the MoD, said her client had “followed a fair and reasonable procedure”.
Earlier in the proceedings Mr Humphries described the “physical and mental toll” of losing his job and the accusations.
“It has affected our marriage and our relationship,” he said.