Anyanwu and Another v South Bank Students’ Union and Another: CA 4 Nov 1999

A university was not acting in a racially discriminatory manner because of the acts of its student union in dismissing two workers after the university had itself expelled them as students. The term ‘knowingly aided’ in the Act was not to be read so widely. The expulsion by the applicants made the termination of employment almost inevitable, but it could not be said to be ‘aiding’ the dismissal. Even assuming the appellants’ account of the facts to be correct it could not be said that the university had knowingly aided the student union to dismiss the appellants
Laws LJ said: ‘The facts alleged by the [appellants] are vigorously contested, but must be taken as true for the purposes of this appeal, since the university’s argument amounts to an application to strike out the case against it. The question for this court, as it seems to me, is whether on those alleged facts the university can conceivably be said to have ‘knowingly aided’ the [appellants’] dismissal by the union. In expelling the [appellants] and barring them from the union premises, the university brought about a state of affairs in which the employment contracts were bound to be terminated. In my judgment it is a plain affront to the language of the Act of 1976 to suggest that in such circumstances the university ‘aided’ the dismissal of the [appellants]. The verb ‘aid’ (to which no special definition is ascribed by the statute) means ‘help’ or ‘assist’. Its use contemplates a state of affairs in which one party, being a free agent in the matter, sets out to do an act or achieve a result, and another party helps him to do it. The first party is the primary actor. The other is a secondary actor. The simplest example may be found in the criminal law. A breaks into a house in order to burgle it. B keeps watch outside or is ready to drive off the get-away car. Plainly B ‘aids’ A. But here, the university is the prime mover. It did not ‘aid’ (or ‘help’) the union to dismiss the [appellants]. It may well be said that it brought about their dismissal. But that is altogether a different thing.’
Butler-Sloss LJ said: ‘But, for my part, I am unable, in applying the natural meaning to the word ‘aids’, to attribute to it a meaning which distorts it. In ordinary language a person who aids another person is one who helps, supports or assists the prime mover to do the act. On the present facts the university took steps to expel the [appellants] for its own reasons, justified or unjustified. Those expulsions, carrying with them the prohibition against entering any part of the university buildings including the students’ union, cannot in ordinary language be said to be knowingly aiding the students’ union to dismiss the [appellants] within section 33(1). In this case the prime mover of the dismissal of the [appellants] was the students’ union but its acts were effectively dictated to it by the prior decision of the university to expel the [appellants]. It seems clear to me that the students’ union had no alternative but to dismiss the [appellants] after the university expelled them. In ordinary language can that conceivably be said to be knowingly aiding? I would answer ‘No’.’
Pill LJ said: ‘Even taking a narrow definition of the word ‘aids’, the acts complained of, suspension, expulsion and dismissal, and the alleged conduct of the university and the union which preceded each of them, are so entangled upon the facts alleged that it would not be appropriate to separate them at this stage. On any view, the dismissal is intimately connected with the suspension and expulsion. An environment of racial prejudice is alleged to have been ‘encouraged and allowed to thrive by the university and the union’ (Mr Anyanwu). The union are alleged to have been ‘conniving with the university to remove me’ (Mr Ebuzoeme). In further and better particulars given at the request of the university, Mr Anyanwu said that ‘in all cases the acts of racial discrimination were carried out collectively by the respondents’ (that is the university and the union).’


Butler-Sloss and Laws LJJ, Pill LJ dissenting


Gazette 10-Nov-1999, Times 04-Nov-1999, [2000] ICR 221


Race Relations Act 1976 33(1)


England and Wales


See AlsoRegina v South Bank University ex parte Anyanwu Admn 27-Jun-1996
The university was concerned at the way it saw the students’ union being run, and imposed a constitution which resulted in the claimants being dismissed. The claimants sought judicial review of the imposition of the new constitution, but that was . .
LeaveAnyanwu and Another v South Bank Students’ Union South Bank University CA 19-Mar-1999
The applicants sought an extension of time to apply to set aside leave to appeal given to their opponents.
Held: The cause of the respondent seemed weak, but raised a point of law which needed determination and the appeal should be allowed to . .
See AlsoAnywanwu and Another v South Bank Students Union and others EAT 12-Sep-1997
. .

Cited by:

Appeal fromAnyanwu and Another v South Bank Student Union and Another HL 24-May-2001
The university had imposed a new constitution on its students union, which resulted in the dismissal of the claimant. He sought to assert racial discrimination.
Held: The concept of ‘aiding’ somebody in committing discriminatory behaviour . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Discrimination, Employment

Updated: 10 May 2022; Ref: scu.77829