25th February 2015

Forwarding pornographic emails at work "Leeds" to loss of 12 months’ notice

A former Director of Leeds United Football Club has failed in an action for wrongful dismissal (Williams v Leeds United Football Club).  Mr Williams’ contract provided for a salary of £200,000 per annum and a 12 month notice period.  He was given notice of redundancy.  However, one week into the notice period he was summarily dismissed for gross misconduct.  The employer had instructed forensic investigators to review their email system with a view to finding a basis for a gross misconduct dismissal.  This was done with the intention of avoiding the substantial notice payment.

The investigation uncovered an email which Mr Williams had sent more than 5 years earlier.  The email contained pornographic material which he had forwarded to two former colleagues and also to a junior female colleague.  Leeds commenced a disciplinary procedure and Mr Williams was dismissed in his absence when he failed to attend the disciplinary hearing.  Leeds refused to pay the £200k notice pay.

The High Court in London dismissed his notice pay claim.  Leeds were entitled to dismiss Mr Williams without notice in the circumstances.  The senior nature of his position, combined with the fact that the lewd nature of the images could have amounted to harassment of a female colleague, resulted in a breach of trust and confidence.    His conduct amounted to a repudiatory breach of contract.  The Court was not moved by the employee’s argument that the delay of over 5 years meant that he had not breached trust and confidence – Leeds acted when they became aware of the breach.  Also irrelevant was the fact that the employer was actively seeking material to justify dismissal and avoid paying notice.

Jack Boyle
Senior Solicitor – Employment Law



The opinions expressed in this site are of the author(s) only and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Blackadders LLP.

Blackadders takes all reasonable steps to ensure that the content of this site is accurate and up to date. The site is not, however, intended as a substitute for seeking legal or other professional advice but rather as an informative guide to the services provided by Blackadders and topical legal developments. Site visitors should always seek advice tailored to their specific situation. Consequently, Blackadders accepts no responsibility for any loss or damage suffered by anyone acting or failing to act on the basis of information contained on this site. Downloading of material contained on this site is at the user’s own risk and all necessary virus checks must first be carried out by the user. Blackadders is not responsible for the material found on any web sites linked to this one and links to this site may only be made with Blackadders prior consent.


Blackadders owns the copyright in this blog and all material contained on it. The material on this site may be downloaded for personal use only and must not be altered. Otherwise, Blackadders’ written consent is required before any material on this site is reproduced, copied or transmitted in any way.

Privacy Statement

Information passed to us via this site is kept confidential and will not be disclosed to third parties except if authorised by you or required by law.

© Blackadders LLP 2021

Members of the Law Society of Scotland.

Blackadders Solicitors is a trading name of Blackadders LLP, a limited liability partnership, registered in Scotland No SO301600 whose registered office is 30 & 34 Reform Street, Dundee, DD1 1RJ. Reference to a ‘partner’ is to a member of Blackadders LLP.

Back to News & Legal Updates