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'Airport' star Spake told claim for damages is 'abuse of process'

'Very high risk of double recovery’ says deemster

A former director of the Isle of Man Airport - who claimed he suffered ‘psychiatric injuries’ whilst working there - has had his claim for damages struck out.

Jeremy Spake had brought a civil case against the Department of Infrastructure at the High Court of Justice of the Isle of Man.

But he’s been told it would be an ‘abuse of process’ to allow it to proceed because he should have pursued these specific grievances before an Employment and Equality Tribunal.

The hearing was held on 10 November but Deemster John Needham’s judgement has been published in full today (8 December).

You can read it HERE.


Mr Spake, who appeared on the BBC television programme ‘Airport’, took up the deputy airport director post at Ronaldsway in August 2018 before leaving in March 2022.

In December that year he lodged a claim against his former employer for damages for the ‘psychiatric injuries’ he allegedly suffered.

These, he claimed, were caused through various breaches which he said were committed by the department during his tenure.

In July this year the DoI asked the court to strike out the claim stating it was an abuse of process because Mr Spake had already brought a previous complaint through the tribunal system earlier that year.  

Employment and Equality

On 31 May 2022, Mr Spake issued his employment tribunal complaint alleging that he was the subject of unfair and wrongful dismissal/constructive dismissal.

He claimed his departure had been motivated by repeated protected disclosures – or whistleblowing – made to the DoI about safety-related matters, and non-compliance, at the airport.

Mr Spake revealed the ‘vast majority’ of requests for financial support to fund improvements were met with silence, or refusal, and said there was ‘constant failure’ of executives to respond positively.

He also referred to ‘toxic behaviours’, said to be instigated against him, by members of air traffic control which were not investigated.

Mr Spake claimed he was working 110 hours per week and had suffered stress and anxiety before being diagnosed with depression; this led to a referral to the Crisis Response Team.

He was suspended from work between January and April 2021 and said he was not informed of the exact reasons for this which caused additional stress; he resigned on 3 March 2022.

The Compromise Agreement

Mr Spake had claimed compensation for loss of earnings, pension entitlement, employment benefits, compensation for injury to his feelings and costs.

A compromise agreement was reached between the two parties which incorporated a non-disclosure clause; a settlement was agreed and contained in a written agreement in January 2023.

That agreement saw Mr Spake paid a ‘substantial sum’ which was broken down into money for lost earnings, pension contributions and injury to feelings.

The terms of the agreement stated that Mr Spake would accept it was a full and final settlement of all claims of whatsoever nature.

Psychiatric Injury

However Mr Spake's claim, from 22 December 2022 - which according to the high court judgement set out a ‘virtually identical narrative of the history of the claimant’s employment’ - was served on the defendant in April 2023.

He claimed this time that the DoI had failed to take reasonable measures to minimise the stresses he suffered.

Mr Spake also said adequate support, to help him cope with the repercussions of seeking to bring the change he’d been tasked with, was not provided.  

He added that no measures had been taken to restrict his workload, address the ‘harassing behaviours’ of other employees or take heed of the stress and anxiety he was experiencing.

The now 54-year-old therefore claimed he’d suffered psychiatric injury or injuries; however an expert psychiatric report was never produced to the court.

Mr Spake argued that full compensation for personal injury had not been available to him before the tribunal and, although similar ground was covered, he should be allowed to pursue the claim.


Responding to the claim, at the hearing in November 2023, the Department of Infrastructure argued that it would be an abuse of process to allow Mr Spake a ‘second bite of the cherry’.

This, it was said, was because his initial action could have contained a claim for personal injury.

The DoI denied the allegations brought against it and suggested it was the claimant’s management style, and conduct, that had been problematic.

It added that it was unable to plead to the issue of alleged psychiatric injury to the lack of particularity as to that injury and lack of any medical evidence.

“Bearing in mind the important duties of the deputy director of the airport regarding safety, the flagging up of the claimant’s own difficulties with workload appears to me to be very much part and parcel of his whistleblowing disclosures generally and any alleged psychiatric illness suffered by not being listened to and provided with support was in itself a detriment flowing therefrom.” Deemster John Needham

The Judgement

Striking the claim out as an abuse of process Deemster Needham said the loss Mr Spake had suffered was ‘eminently capable’ of being adequately compensated for within a personal injury claim through the employment tribunal system.

“To argue such loss was separate and distinct from whistleblowing appears to me to be highly artificial in the circumstances of this case as pleaded,” he said.

“I also cannot ignore the significant problems that would be presented regarding quantification of loss and the need to avoid double recovery.”

Deemster Needham said Mr Spake had already received a ‘significant sum’ as a result of the tribunal proceedings and any damages for personal injury were likely to be ‘relatively modest’.

“There certainly has been no indication of life-changing injury such that shutting out the claim would cause significant hardship for the claimant,” he added.

“I conclude that the balance in this case comes down in favour of the defendant.”

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