Community worker sacked over Facebook photo showing him with fake gun

Project worker with Adapt posed with a gun in photo taken when on holiday in Thailand

A project worker at a west Dublin community drugs team was sacked after he uploaded to Facebook a holiday photograph showing him "in a violent and threatening pose" with a fake gun.

The Mountview, Blakestown, Hartstown, Huntstown Community Drugs Team Ltd, trading as Adapt, sacked project worker John Brown after discovering the six-year-old photo on Mr Brown's Facebook page. He was sacked for gross misconduct in April of last year. Mr Brown brought an unfair dismissal case against Adapt and the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) has now found that he was unfairly dismissed and awarded him €3,230.

Good faith

The EAT said Mr Brown’s dismissal “was disproportionate and unfair” but that Adapt had “acted in good faith and with the best of motives, in dealing with this matter”. The EAT pointed out that Mr Brown “made a serious error of judgement which was unfortunate and tragic for him”.

Adapt provides a range of holistic services to vulnerable users of drugs and alcohol many of whom have been victims of gun crime and, in some instances, perpetrators of gun crime.


Mr Brown was employed as a project worker providing one-to-one support to users since January 2003.

The dismissal letter issued by Adapt stated that displaying the photograph in the public domain of Facebook with Mr Brown “in a violent and threatening pose, undermines the professional integrity of Adapt, is unacceptable, and cannot be tolerated in any circumstances”.

Mr Brown told an EAT hearing in Dublin that the photo was taken in an amusement park in Thailand in 2008, the gun used was fake and the ammunition he wore in a band around his waist was false.

He said he had visited Thailand accompanied by four members of the travelling community, had gained their trust and they were in his care.

Mr Brown denied that the purpose of the photograph taken with a holiday colleague was to show fear and said it was only role play.

The former drug addict believed that it was appropriate to pose for the photograph and compared it to dressing up in a costume at Halloween, accepted that the photograph was transposed onto a T-shirt which was at his home, but does not wear.

Mr Brown said he didn’t realise that the Facebook photo was in the public domain and as soon as that was brought to his attention he had it removed immediately.

In its determination, the EAT found that Mr Brown “by his behaviour contributed significantly to his own downfall.” It said he exposed Adapt or its patients, victims, support services in general, “to a serious danger and risk of which he was aware or ought to have been aware”.

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times