THE regulator which monitors law firms has vowed to investigate complaints about the way hospital bosses defended employment tribunal proceedings against a whistle-blower.

In 2018 consultant urologist Peter Duffy launched employment tribunal proceedings against the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.

Mr Duffy had resigned in 2016 after raising concerns about three of his former colleagues; Kavinder Madhra, Ashutosh Jain and Muhammad Naseem.

Last June he was awarded £102,000 in compensation and unlawfully deducted wages after the judge ruled he had been unfairly and constructive dismissed.

Mr Duffy has since made a complaint to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) over a costs warning letter sent to him by UHMBT’s solicitor Sean Hick from law firm Capsticks.

In the letter Mr Duffy was warned that if he did not succeed at the tribunal he would be liable to pay the trust’s costs of around £100,000.

Last week the SRA wrote to Mr Duffy, who now works on the Isle of Man, and said an officer would carry out further investigation into his complaint.

In his letter the SRA’s investigation officer states: “You expressed concerns Mr Hick took unfair advantage of you on the first day of giving evidence by sending you a letter threatening costs.

“Your report suggests Mr Hick may have been in breach of the SRA’s standards or requirements.

"The allegation is serious enough to warrant further investigation.”

“I very much welcome the news that Capsticks are to be investigated for their conduct in respect of my employment tribunal case of 2018,” Mr Duffy said.

“It is vital that whistle-blowers are protected against threats and intimidation and this should also extend to protection against legal threats and intimidation.

“The whole point of an employment tribunal is that individuals can take action against huge, billion-pound organisations without being financially crushed.

“By using the tactic of threatening costs - in my case £108,000 including VAT, large organisations and their solicitors can intimidate claimants into dropping their case or, as in my case, force claimants to reduce or weaken their case to try and protect against life-changing costs.

“Such tactics cannot, of course, be easily deployed in reverse.

“If Capsticks and other legal firms are banned from these tactics then this will represent a significant advance in whistle-blower protection and the protection of the public as a whole.”

The SRA has confirmed that at his stage the complaint is not classed as a formal investigation.

An SRA spokesperson said: “We have had a complaint and are making further enquiries before deciding on any next steps.

“There is no formal investigation into Capsticks at this point.”

UHMBT declined to comment until the outcome of any investigation.