A bus driver accused of handing out tickets to customers and pocketing the cash has launched an employment tribunal claim for constructive dismissal against the company after a court threw out a criminal case against her.
Catherine Bates, 39, worked for Mike de Courcey Travel Ltd in Coventry until the company found a £21.60 discrepancy in her takings and reported the matter to the police.
The company said she had stolen the cash, but as it turned out someone had added up the totals from a spreadsheet incorrectly and she had actually overpaid her employer.
Prosecutors did not spot the error until the day she was due to stand trial at Coventry Crown Court last month, whereupon the judge immediately threw out the case against her.
Ms Bates says she's furious that around £10,000 of taxpayers' money was wasted on the legal proceedings against her.
Speaking from her home in Coventry, Ms Bates said: "If I hadn't received legal aid we could have lost our home because of this.
"If I had been given a criminal record, how could I have got a job then? It's been sheer hell."
As for her constructive dismissal claim, she said: "I want compensation, but who can put a price on what has happened to me? I lost my job and I had a mortgage to pay and a family to feed. For months I was left out of pocket.
"They suspended me in January saying they had received a customer complaint and no allegations of theft were mentioned until four months later when the police arrested me.
"I later tracked down the customer who was supposed to have complained about me and she said she had made no complaint at all.
"I ended up leaving because I knew why they were doing it and I could no longer work for a company which could treat its colleagues in that way.
"My family and I believe the only reason they were doing this was so my tribunal claim would be thrown out.
"There have been a couple of male drivers who have been sacked recently for theft and none of them have had the police called on them or been dragged through the courts.
"Being a bus driver, everyone knows you and having people calling me thief meant the word got round. People stopped trusting me and avoided me.
"My father was a police officer for 15 years and my family was brought up believing that you should respect the law and not break it.
"This whole experience has been hell for me and my family."
Mike de Courcey Travel Ltd has refused to comment on the claim pending the employment tribunal action.
- 'Fare-theft' bus driver walks free after employer admits miscalculation (Telegraph)
- Constructive dismissal law (Findlaw.co.uk)
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