A WOMAN who claimed she was sexually harassed by her lettings agency boss yesterday won her claim for constructive dismissal.

An employment tribunal accepted that Darlington mother-of-two Helen Bellwood was subjected to inappropriate behaviour by former magistrate and company director Gareth Cordey.

But her claim for sexual harassment was dismissed because more than three months elapsed between leaving the company and making the claim.

The Newcastle tribunal heard that Ms Bellwood worked as a lettings negotiator at Swiftlets, in Darlington, from August 2006 until her resignation in January, last year.

Employment judge John Hunter said: “The respondent has admitted that there were acts carried out that we consider constitute sexual harassment, however, they are out of time.

“There was conduct unbecoming of him. We are satisfied that the claimant decided to leave when she did because of the loss of confidence in the respondent and his ethical standards.”

Mr Cordey, who was a justice of the peace in Darlington Magistrates’ Court from 2004 until last year, is a director at Swiftlets.

During the three-day hearing he admitted viewing websites on his work computer containing material of a sexual nature, sending explicit text messages and patting Ms Bellwood’s bottom.

Ms Bellwood said he would touch her “whenever he felt like it”, such as when she was leaning into filing cabinets or using the photocopier. During his evidence, Mr Cordey said: “Because of the nature of the relationship we had, I felt it was acceptable.

“Our relationship went beyond employer-employee boundaries. We were very friendly.”

Mr Cordey described the sexual harassment claim against him as “vexatious, vindictive and unreasonable”.

Although that claim was dismissed, the claim against Swiftlets for constructive dismissal was described as “well-founded”

by the judge.

After Ms Bellwood left Swiftlets, she set up a rival Darlington lettings agency, Bellwood and Harris.

After the hearing, she said: “I am so pleased it is over. It has been horrendous.

“I am glad they have acknowledged there was sexual harassment, but am frustrated it has been dismissed on a technicality.”

The tribunal will reconvene within a month to establish the level of compensation.