director wins depression case
by Angela Hussain
managing director with depression today won her defence against
a council which tried to sue her after she allegedly withheld her
diagnosis in a job application.
Cheltenham Borough Council was suing
Christine Laird, 52, for £1m in London's High Court.
Mrs Laird had been appointed managing
director of the council in 2002. But she left in 2005 on an ill-health
pension after taking sick leave for depression on full pay.
The council had claimed it suffered
financial losses amounting to more than £1m including interest
as a result of Mrs Laird's "deceit" for not declaring
her previous mental health problems.
Laird, 52, had told the court in March that she believed the appointment
was "unconditional" and there had been no requirement
for a medical report.
the centre of the case was a medical questionnaire. To a question:
"Do you normally enjoy good health?" she replied: "Yes".
To: "Do you have a mental impairment?" she replied: "No".
court was told that Mrs Laird had suffered "three episodes
of depression with associated anxiety" between 1997 and 2001.
But she saw it as "stress-related illness and not depression"
linked to "non-specific, non-recurrent events".
also believed the "stress and illness" had ceased and
was taking antidepressants as part of a "weaning off"
found that the representations she made were not false nor, "given
the terms of the questions asked were they misleading".
said Mrs Laird did not have an impairment under the mental health
act or the disability discrimination act 1995.
case has been watched by mental health campaigners who were concerned
it could set a precedent and force anyone with a depression diagnosis
to declare the full details when they applied for a new job.
Laird said at the hearing in March that
she had been forced out of office by a poor working atmosphere in
the local authority and council members who opposed her implementation
of restructuring departments.
Andrew North, chief executive of
Cheltenham Borough Council, today said the authority was disappointed
with the judgement.
"While the outcome is not what
we had hoped for, we felt we had a duty to take action to recover
losses for what we felt was a disastrous time for the council.
"Had the council known Mrs
Laird's medical history it would most probably not have employed
her and incurred the costs it has."
Laird said that she had spent three months in a psychiatric hospital
and is now permanently disabled.
Laird said she had been through "years of absolute hell".
Mrs Laird's husband Hugh Laird,
speaking outside the court, said: "Christine's mental health
has been cruelly broken.
"The personal cost of all this
for us is not financial - the price was so nearly her life.
"Christine fought and won this
court case. Now she will start the long fight to win back her health
with the love and prayers of her friends and family.
"All of us are determined that
she will make a full recovery."
Mr Hamblen rejected a counterclaim
by Mrs Laird for damages.
legal costs for the action are expected to run into hundreds of
thousands of pounds.
Issue: Mental health law
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