The Home Secretary’s behavior faces re-examination as Priti Patel bullying case reaches London High Court

Wednesday, November 17, 2021 at 07.05

High-ranking judges at the High Court are due to hear a legal challenge today over the Prime Minister’s decision to assist the Interior Minister following allegations of bullying.

The FDA filed a lawsuit in February over Boris Johnson’s decision last year to disregard the findings of his adviser on ministerial standards to support Priti Patel.

The case is being heard by Lord Justice Lewis and Mrs Justice Steyn at the Royal Courts of Justice in London today.

‘Not always considerate and respectful’

In a study of Patel’s behavior, published in November, Sir Alex Allan found that she had not always treated officials with “consideration and respect”.

He concluded that Patel’s conduct, which is said to include some instances of shouting and swearing, met the definition of bullying adopted by the Civil Service.

Sir Alex left his advisory role at Downing Street after Mr Johnson contradicted his advice by ruling that Patel did not break the law of ministers.

Ministers are usually expected to resign if they break the code, but Mr Johnson, who is its judge, ruled that Patel had not broken the rules – and that is the decision being challenged by the FDA.

FDA Secretary-General Dave Penman, whose union represents senior civil servants, said earlier this month that Mr Johnson’s decision was “extraordinary” and that officials’ confidence in challenging unacceptable behavior from ministers had been “fatally damaged”.

He said: “We are asking the court to rule that the prime minister has made a mistake. It is not about forcing the interior minister to sanctions, it is a matter for the prime minister, it is just about how the ministerial code is interpreted.”

Following the publication of Sir Alex’s report, Patel issued an “unreserved, adequate apology” and said there were “no apologies” for what happened.

The hearing starts at 10.30 and is expected to last two days.

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