Prison minister’s appeal over disciplinary action is dismissed by tribunal

Barry Trayhorn

Barry Trayhorn - Credit: Archant

A former Littlehey prison worker who challenged a ruling over his right to read bible passages to inmates has had his appeal dismissed.

Barry Trayhorn claimed he was discriminated against because of his Christian faith when he was disciplined by HMP Littlehey for explaining a bible passage during a Christian chapel service.

In March 2016, an employment tribunal ruled there was no discrimination and that the prison, in Perry, had acted properly in disciplining him.

Mr Trayhorn, an ordained Pentecostal minister, worked as a prison gardener and volunteered in the chapel at HMP Littlehey, a prison for sex offenders. He started work at the prison in May 2011 and, in 2012, started to assist at some chapel services on a voluntary basis.

During a service in May 2014, Mr Trayhorn spoke of God’s forgiveness for those who repent, quoting 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 from memory. The verses speak of people who had been forgiven a number of sins, including adultery, greed, drunkenness and homosexual sexual activity.

But four days after the service, a complaint was made about Mr Trayhorn’s orthodox Christian teaching, and he was immediately barred from participating in future chapel services. Over the following weeks, a series of issues were raised about his conduct as a gardener at the prison, prompting disciplinary action.

Mr Trayhorn resigned from his job in November 2014, saying that he had been harassed because of his Christian faith and that it was impossible for him to return to work, given the way that he had been treated. Two days after his resignation, a disciplinary hearing was held in his absence, at which he was given a final written warning.

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Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Mr Trayhorn took his case to an employment tribunal in November 2015, claiming that he had been punished by the prison because of his Christian faith, but the tribunal ruled against him.

Mr Trayhorn subsequently took the case to the Employment Appeal Tribunal but, on August 1, his appeal was rejected.

In her judgement, Mrs Justice Slade said: “The employment tribunal was not satisfied either that the claimant as a Christian was disadvantaged by the two provisions, criteria or practices [imposed by the prison] or that other Christians whether “singly or as a group” were disadvantaged.

“Further, the tribunal did not err in holding that any restriction on the expression of the claimant’s religious belief by the application of the disciplinary policies was a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aim of maintaining order and safety in the prison.”