Manager sacked for Prince George insult loses court case

Angela Gibbins, the organisation’s £80,000-a-year head of global estates, was suspended and later fired after her Facebook tirade

A British Council manager, who was sacked for posting a Facebook message calling Prince George ‘the face of white privilege’ has lost her employment tribunal claim for compensation. 

Angela Gibbins, who earned £80,000-a-year as head of global estates at the organisation, was sacked after her ‘distasteful and personal attack’ on the future King went viral in July.

Ms Gibbins – dubbed by colleagues at the charity as the ‘red under the bed’ and the ‘quiet Corbynista’ – had previously refused to meet Prince Charles when he visited her office, stayed at her desk as colleagues watched Lady Thatcher’s funeral, and turned down a Buckingham Palace garden party invitation. 

Yet Judge Sarah Goodman and tribunal colleagues ruled the British Council was right to fire the staunch republican for her ‘reckless lack of judgment, inexcusable in someone in a senior position’ – despite her claims that she had a ‘slip of judgement’.

Ms Gibbins sparked outrage after her Facebook comments under a photo of Prince George hit the headlines a year ago. The picture, released to mark George’s third birthday, was originally posted on Facebook with vile comments by the band Dub Pistols.

There followed a debate among Ms Gibbins’s friends of social media about the Royals, Central London Employment Tribunal heard. 

She wrote the offending comment in response to a photo placed by the band Dub Pistols, with the caption: ‘I know he’s only two years old, but Prince George looks like a f***ing d***head.’

This was followed by the comment ‘too much?’, which sparked a debate among Ms Gibbin’s friends about white privilege, Central London Employment Tribunal was told.

She also posted: ‘White privilege. That cheeky grin is the (already locked-in) innate knowledge that he’s Royal, rich, advantaged and will never know any difficulties or hardships in life. Let’s find photos of 3yo [sic] Syrian refugee children and see if they look alike, eh?’

Later she posted: ‘I’m sound in my socialist, atheist and republican opinions. I don’t believe the Royal Family have any place in a modern democracy, least of all when they live on public money. That’s privilege and it needs to end.’

Yet in a written ruling, the judge said: ‘The Tribunal agrees “reckless lack of judgment” which had caused disrepute is sufficient for gross misconduct.

‘We concluded that it was not the expression of republican belief that was the reason for concluding that the claimant had lacked judgment and thereby brought the respondent into disrepute.

‘It was that she had associated herself with a distasteful and personal attack on a small child.’

Ms Gibbins had taken the British Council, which promotes British culture abroad and has the Queen as the patron, to an employment tribunal in July. She had claimed unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal and ‘belief discrimination’.

She said the British Council were limited by the lack of expert evidence on Facebook and had little practical experience of social media themselves.

But Judge Goodman added: ‘Nevertheless we agree that posting controversially expressed views associated with an obscene remark about a child to 150 people by itself raised a risk that at least one of those might be so outraged by her comment as to pass it on.

‘The claimant agrees that her remarks would have been unacceptable if associated with the British Council.’ 

Despite posting her remarks on her Facebook, which has secure privacy settings, they were leaked out and two days later a story was published which sparked a huge row and widespread media coverage.

The British Council, which employs 12,225 staff across over 100 countries and gets 16 per cent of its budget from the publicly funded Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said it received at least 700 complaint emails, including some from MPs.

Judge Goodman said: ‘Against the information to staff about social media use, this was on a par with gross negligence, and did amount to reckless risk taking. It did also bring the respondent into disrepute.

‘It is relevant she was a senior employee. It was conduct undermining the respondent’s trust in her to express her views responsibly and not to bring them into disrepute.’

Ms Gibbins said that she had received a barrage of abuse and threats on Twitter, including that she would be ‘Jo Cox’d’ for making supportive comments about refugees and Syrians. 

Ms Gibbins wrote on Facebook 'I know he's only two years old, but Prince George looks like a f***ing d***head'

Ms Gibbins wrote on Facebook ‘I know he’s only two years old, but Prince George looks like a f***ing d***head’

She also added that she has been unable to secure another job since her outburst. 

Rebecca Walton, the British Council’s EU regional director, who oversaw the disciplinary hearing, told the tribunal: ‘My concern would have been the same whoever our Patron was, whether from the Royal Family or not.’

She added: ‘I believe there is a recklessness that comes into play when you choose to comment under a picture of a three-year-old child about that three-year-old child.

‘It is common knowledge that it is hard to keep your social media to 150 people, and 150 people alone are a lot of people.

‘She didn’t think through the consequences of her actions.’

Ms Gibbins, of Walthamstow, east London, had said she either wanted her job back with compensation, another job or just compensation.