LEEDS United’s former technical director has lost his High Court damages claim over his dismissal for sending an email containing “obscene” images of naked women in the shower to Sunderland boss Guy Poyet.
Gwyn Williams, 66, who was summarily dismissed for gross misconduct in July 2013, was seeking up to £250,000 in compensation for breach of contract.
Mr Williams claimed the email he sent to ex-Chelsea colleague Dennis Wise, Gus Poyet - now head coach of Sunderland - and Carol Lamb, a receptionist at the club, was part of a “dirty Leeds” joke, referring to the club’s reputation for heavy tackling in the 1970s.
But dismissing his case today, Mr Justice Lewis of the Queen’s Bench Division said sending the “obscene and pornographic e-mails” was “a sufficiently serious breach of the duty of implied trust and confidence as to amount to a repudiation of the contract”.
He said: “The club was entitled to rely upon that conduct as justifying the summary dismissal of the Claimant on 30 July 2013. The claim is therefore dismissed.”
During the hearing, Mr Williams’s counsel, Daniel Barnett, told Mr Justice Lewis at London’s High Court that an attachment to the March 2008 email contained some images of a “Benny Hill” or “saucy postcard” nature while others went a little further, showing genitalia and women hugging and caressing each other.
“But they fall considerably short of hard-core pornography, or images that are likely to shock and disturb. They are innocuous in nature, “ he said.
Mr Williams, who joined Leeds in August 2006 at an annual salary of £200,000 plus benefits, argued that forwarding the email to three friends was not sufficiently serious to amount to a repudiatory breach of contract - while the club says it was.
He says that five years and eight months elapsed before it was discovered by the club, while allegedly conducting a forensic examination to find a reason to justify not paying him his notice.
Mr Barnett said: “The sole remaining issue is whether forwarding an email containing vulgar images goes suffficiently to the root of the employment contract to justify dismissal without notice.”