A North East based former London bus driver who was badly hurt in an assault by a passenger and then sacked for taking time off while he was injured has been paid £75,000 compensation by his former employer.

His personal injury and unfair dismissal and disability discrimination claims were supported throughout by his trade union GMB Northern and Thompsons Solicitors.

Robert Latimer of Monkwearmouth, Tyne and Wear was attacked by an aggressive and drunk passenger who swung a bag of beer bottles against his left arm causing trauma to the shoulder and elbow. He also suffered psychologically injuries that left him unable to return to driving without counselling.

He was driving on a notorious route in Twickenham, South West London, where there had been a number of incidents of assaults and abuse of bus drivers.

Incredibly his employer, Travel London, alleged throughout the case that Mr Latimer was the aggressor and had attacked the passenger, even though Metropolitan Police reports showed otherwise. Travel London did admit that it should have fitted Perspex screens to protect drivers, but refused to admit its failure to do so made it liable for the Mr Latimer’s injuries and only agreed to settle both his claims on the steps of the court.

Mr Latimer was signed off work by his doctor after the attack in 2006. He remained off work but in spite of submitting letters from his GP saying that he was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder he was continually contacted by Travel London asking why he was not at work and demanding that he attend meetings in London. They also stopped paying his salary and sick pay.

He was unable to travel due to his health and because he could not afford the fare. His employer refused to pay his fare or meet him closer to home and a request by his union representative to have a grievance hearing in Sunderland was ignored. He was sacked in March 2007 and refused the right to appeal.

Tommy Brennan, GMB Northern secretary said: “Travel London have behaved appallingly and have showed complete disregard for the law in treating Robert Latimer in this disgraceful way. He was a victim of a serious crime and yet not only did they try to paint him as the aggressor, they refused to talk to the GMB or to give our member the right of a grievance hearing and to appeal against his sacking. If they had not settled the case on the steps of the court I have no doubt that the judges would have found against them.”

Robert Latimer said: “What happened to me shows why it is so important to be a member of a trade union. Without the union, and Thompsons Solicitors, I could not have coped with the stress of taking Travel London to court. It’s been a terrible ordeal for me and I’m hugely relieved that it is over.”

Representing Mr Latimer, David Mole of Thompsons in Newcastle said: “This was a particularly shocking case, combining serious health and safety, unfair dismissal and disability discrimination issues. If Travel London had fitted its drivers’ cabs with protective Perspex screens this attack would not have happened. If they had supported him in the aftermath of the attack he might still be driving buses. How they could admit that they should have fitted screens, yet continue to insist that Robert was responsible for his injuries is beyond me. In our view Travel London also failed to follow even the basic statutory procedures. They also denied that his shoulder injury constituted a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act, when it was quite clear that it did.”

This news story was also published by the Sunderland Echo