Culture in ‘sexist’ armed police unit was ‘absolute boys club’

The judgement was made by an Employment Tribunal.

Culture in ‘sexist’ armed police unit was ‘absolute boys club’

There was an “absolute boys club” culture within a Police Scotland armed response vehicles (ARV) unit, an employment tribunal has ruled.

In a judgement, it was determined that the culture within the east of Scotland unit was “horrific”.

The tribunal was raised by Rhona Malone, a former firearms officer, who alleged claims of victimisation and discrimination against Police Scotland.

At the hearing in Edinburgh, the tribunal found that her claims of victimisation did ‘succeed in their entirety’, although the claim of direct discrimination was dismissed.

It stated that it accepted the evidence of Ms Malone, together with the evidence of witnesses Rachel Coates, Richard Creanor, Simon White, and Zara Taylor.

The tribunal accepted the evidence that when Ms Coates became an AFO (Authorised Firearms Officer), she was told by the Chief Firearms Instructor (CFI) that women should not be AFOs ‘because they menstruated and this would affect their temperament’.

It also accepted evidence from witnesses that images of topless women had been posted in a Whatsapp group which was used for both work and leisure purposes.

It found that an email was also sent in January 2018 where Inspector Keith Warhurst said that he did not want to see two female officers being deployed together when ‘sufficient male staff’ were on duty.

He had said in the email that his view was ‘based upon my experience’, and noted ‘obvious differences in physical capacity’, as well as a ‘balance of testosterone’.

The tribunal also accepted evidence that Insp Warhurst had referred to a female Police Investigators and Review Commissioner (PIRC) as a ‘wee lassie’.

It also accepted evidence that Ms Coates had asked the CFI if women AFOs could have trousers and a top instead of one piece to wear, having explained that a one piece meant women had to take off their gun belts and armour when going to the toilet.

The tribunal accepted the evidence that in response, the CFI swore at her.

Ms Malone’s Solicitor, Margaret Gribbon of Bridge Litigation UK Solicitors in Glasgow, said: “This a damning Judgement for Police Scotland.

“The employment tribunal upheld my client’s claims that Police Scotland victimised her over a lengthy period after she complained about an Inspector’s overtly sexist email.

“The employment tribunal’s findings lay bare the misogynistic attitudes and culture within armed policing and the hostile treatment Police Officers face when they try to call it out.

“Of equal concern is the employment tribunal’s findings that it did not consider credible much of the evidence it heard from Police Scotland’s witnesses, including testimony from high-ranking Police Officers and senior members of staff.   

“The serious issues this Judgement brings to light need to be urgently addressed by Police Scotland”.

In a statement, Police Scotland said the judgement highlights “serious issues”, with an apology also issued to Ms Malone.

Assistant chief constable Mark Williams said: “It is clear the culture in Armed Policing in 2017 and 2018 was unacceptable. Since then, we have worked hard to improve standards but we know there is much still to do.

“Sexism, misogyny and discrimination of any kind is deplorable. It has no place in society and no place in policing. Everyone in policing has a responsibility to lead change so we better reflect, represent and serve our communities and improve the experience of officers and staff.

“As an organisation, our response when a dedicated female officer raised legitimate concerns was nowhere near good enough. I apologise unreservedly to Ms Malone for those failings and for the significant impact they had on her.

“This judgement highlights serious issues and we will set out action to address them as a matter of urgency.”

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