A former senior diplomat has won the right to substantial government compensation after the High Court ruled that he was unjustifiably removed from his prestigious overseas posting on the basis of an unfounded allegation that he touched the rear of a local politician’s wife.
The court ruled that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) had acted in breach of John Yapp’s employment contract and the duty of care that it owed him when it withdrew him from his post as High Commissioner to Belize in June 2008.
Mr Yapp had said that he was left feeling ‘shell-shocked’ by the decision to withdraw him with immediate effect following the allegation that he had touched the bottom of a local politician’s wife. The 61-year–old was never re-engaged at ambassadorial level.
He had been summoned before a senior FCO official whilst on leave from Belize and confronted by claims that he had a ‘bullying’ management style and had ‘displayed inappropriate behaviour towards women at social functions’. That allegation was described as ‘unfounded and scurrilous’ by his legal team.
Mr Yapp was cleared of the bottom touching accusation following an internal inquiry; however it was by then too late to reinstate him in his post and, in subsequent years, he found himself increasingly side-lined in his career. He said that his treatment had triggered a major mental breakdown and depression.
He had 40 years’ service as a diplomat behind him – including a previous tenure as High Commissioner in the Seychelles – but argued that his superiors had simply failed to hear ‘his side of the story’ before taking the drastic step of withdrawing him from his post.
Mr Justice Cranston concluded: “The FCO acted in breach of contract and in breach of its duty of care in withdrawing Mr Yapp from his post as High Commissioner of Belize in 2008 without affording him fair treatment. He is entitled to damages to compensate him for the losses which flowed from this.” The amount of damages payable will be the subject of a further hearing unless settlement terms are now agreed.