UK: Oldham College officer sacked over cannabis find loses unfair dismissal claim

AN officer at Oldham College has lost an unfair dismissal fight after being sacked for bringing cannabis into the establishment.

Cannabis leaves, a cone and roach were said to have been found in the bag of Amy Harding, a student data and curriculum compliance officer.

An employment tribunal heard concerns had been raised about a smell of cannabis around Miss Harding by her line manager, Sharon Figgins on a date in September 2020.

Her bag was passed to Ms Figgins, who again commented on the smell and a search of her belongings was authorised and undertaken by a colleague, Shelley Hutchinson.

The cannabis leaves, cone and roach were seized and Miss Harding was immediately suspended from her position, for bringing prohibited items into college and being ‘under the influence’ of illegal substances, the tribunal heard.

Because Miss Harding was suffering from anxiety and depression, a disciplinary hearing did not take place for several weeks.

But when one was convened, and Ms Figgins and Ms Hutchinson were called as witnesses, the data officer was dismissed for gross misconduct.

An allegation she was under the influence was dismissed as being ‘subjective’ but the prohibited items charge was upheld.

Miss Harding argued that she had allowed her cousin to use her bag to store items which he usually kept in his car.

She knows that he smokes cannabis for medicinal reasons and she maintained she did not have any reason to search her own bag before coming into work, the tribunal heard.

She insisted she had never used cannabis and claimed it was tobacco in her bag.

An appeal was lodged – with Miss Harding continuing to stress Ms Figgins claimed to have found cannabis resin in her bag and not cannabis leaves – but this proved unsuccessful.

Employment judge Alison Miller-Varey, who considered the case, said Miss Harding had also challenged the fact she was not given a copy of the college’s stop and search policy and that the alleged drugs paraphernalia had been thrown away.


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