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The legal implications of suspending Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson

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In 2014 alone, Clarkson was chastised for using “the n-word”, breached Ofcom guidelines by using the word “slope” to describe an Asian man and who can forget when he sparked a near-riot in Argentina due to his number plate referencing to the Falklands War.

Unsurprisingly this led to the BBC giving Clarkson a final warning last year.

In retaliation, he wrote: “I’ve been told by the BBC that if I make one more offensive remark, anywhere, at any time, I will be sacked. And even the angel Gabriel would struggle to survive with that hanging over his head.

“It’s inevitable that one day, someone, somewhere will say that I’ve offended them, and that will be that.”

He was even made to apologise for the racist words he used.

But after “aiming a punch” at a producer, Clarkson has found himself suspended.

His first response was:

The BBC also announced that the show will not be broadcast on Sunday. This was something that Clarkson made light of.

But the situation is a lot more serious than it looks.

“Generally, employers should only suspend for as short a time as possible to allow an employer to investigate the complaints before deciding on whether there is sufficient evidence to bring disciplinary proceedings,” said Glenn Hayes, an employment law partner at national law firm Irwin Mitchell.

“Although it is impossible to say at this stage whether Clarkson will be dismissed, even if the offence is relatively minor the BBC may decide to dismiss him as he is already on a final written warning.‎

“The difference here is that the offence may not be relatively minor. The suggestion that Jeremy Clarkson allegedly sought to punch one of his producers is very serious and certainly in the workplace would usually be deemed gross misconduct and, following a fair disciplinary hearing, result in immediate dismissal without notice.”

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Within minutes of the news, however, fans of Clarkson and avid Top Gear watchers alike started an online petition to have him reinstated. Some 10,000 people signed the petition in the first three hours. And there’s a #BringBackClarkson Twitter campaign set up by Change.org.

Nigel Farage also jumped in to his defence: “The more controversial Jeremy Clarkson is, the more people watch his programme, and the more money the BBC makes out of marketing a show that sells globally and makes them a fortune.

“I would think it’s just typical Clarkson, getting very, very close to the line of being offensive but perhaps not quite going over it.”

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But despite claiming that Clarkson is “obviously somebody who is incredibly talented”, shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman suggested that “he treads very close to, and often over, the line.”

Having been the one to previously call for his dismissal after he used the “n-word”, Harman is adamant that “the BBC has to uphold decent standards in all respects, and however gifted people are as presenters they are not entitled to think they are above decent standards of behaviour”.

The BBC now have to decide what to do and with over 150,000 license payers signing a petition to have him reinstated.

“The corporation could be making a ‘rod for its own back’ if they put their demands first and decide not to terminate Clarkson’s employment,” argued Hayes‎. “This would mean that it could be leaving itself open to unfair dismissal claims from other staff in the future if they are dismissed in similar circumstances, or for other perceived gross misconduct offences, and Clarkson is not.”

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