Bus driver who knocked down cyclist was not unfairly dismissed

A bus driver who knocked down a cyclist after he made obscene gestures towards him has lost his claim of unfair dismissal.

Sam Beech had worked for Lothian Buses for 11 years until he was dismissed in September 2019 for gross misconduct.

It all hinged on an incident when Beech was moving away from a bus stop. A cyclist banged his outside wing mirror and Beech beeped his horn at him.

The cyclist then rode slowly in front of the bus, turning backwards to swear and make obscene gestures at Beech.

The bus then accelerated towards the cyclist and knocked him from his bike. One of the bus passengers got off to tend to the cyclist but Beech stayed on the bus for nine minutes making calls to his control room and the emergency services.

When he did get off the bus, he took photos of the bike before checking on the wellbeing of the cyclist.

The cyclist was taken to hospital and Beech ended his shift early to return the bus to the depot.

Following an accident report, Beech was suspended for ‘careless/reckless driving’ and then dismissed at a disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct.

Beech issued a written appeal, claiming the ‘decision was too harsh’ and that ‘no-one had listened to his story’. He also added that the cyclist had no lights, was under the influence of alcohol and the police in attendance had stated he was ‘not blameworthy for the incident’.

His appeal was rejected, so he took the case to the Employment Tribunal.

However, it ruled against him. Employment Judge Jones said: “Lothian Buses had a genuine belief that Mr Beech had acted in a dangerous and unacceptable manner, and given the nature of duties where he worked unsupervised and was required to ensure the safety of passengers and other road users, the decision to dismiss was a reasonable one.”

It was noted that Lothian did not include the fact that the cyclist was under the influence or make any efforts to gain access to the police reports.

However, although all witness reports were clear the cyclist’s behaviour was completely unacceptable, Mr Beech should have responded to the incident differently “by coming to a stop as soon as he was aware that there was a hazard on the road, rather than accelerating towards the hazard”.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.

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