Disability Discrimination

Discrimination

Page last updated on Monday 1st July 2013 at 0940hrs

An Employment Tribunal heard in Leeds earlier this month that a long-serving, female West Yorkshire Police officer was allegedly raped by a male police colleague.

The Claimant, who cannot currently be identified due to *Rule 50 reporting restrictions, told the Tribunal Judge, Humphrey Forrest, that she was the victim of a serious sexual assault during an overseas weekend holiday.  The ‘social bonding’ outing was organised by a group of officers and civilians working at the same Policing Division in November 2010. (For full *Rule 50 explanation see here),

The female police officer has a well-chronicled fourteen year medical history of depression and is claiming disability discrimination against her former employer, the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police. This follows her dismissal in May 2012, as a result of ‘a poor attendance record’. The sacked officer is claiming the police force failed to make reasonable adjustments to both her duties and her rostering to allow for her mental health issues, described to the Judge as “situational depression and exhaustion“, which were amplified significantly by the alleged sexual assault by her police station co-officer.

The assaulted woman, who described herself as “not a lucky person”, had previously suffered a dreadful personal tragedy in 2005 which had, understandably, affected her ability to attend work. But it was not until August 2010 that her condition was accepted as qualifying under the Disability Discrimination Act by West Yorkshire Police’s Occupational Health Unit, where she was under the care of fellow devout Christian, Dr Christopher Shinn (pictured above left).

In March 2010, the Force introduced a series of Action Plans under it’s Unsatisfactory Performance Procedure (UPP) aimed at improving the officer’s attendance. But, in November, the alleged rape occured which severely disrupted the proposed new duty arrangements. The incident left her “numb with shock” and she added: “I’d been a rape-trained officer for some time, but now the boot was on the other foot.  I froze.”

Due to the trauma of the the incident coupled with her personal circumstances at home – and with Christmas looming for her young child  – she delayed reporting the rape to her manager at work until January 2011. The alleged attacker was, surprisingly, not suspended by Professional Standards Department officers investigating this serious criminal allegation and was, instead, simply moved to another police station less than 5 miles away from where they both previously worked. The two police stations were within the same Division and the prospects of officers from either station being called to the same incident were very real. The victim and assailant were still both working under the same line manager.

When told in June 2011 by Professional Standards that no action would be taken against her attacker, following an internal investigation and limited contact with police in the Eastern European city where the incident took place, the female officer said her mental health, understandably, “took a nose dive”. She maintained that the Force should have done more to move her, or her alleged assailant, much further away. “They are a massive Force, thousands of people working for them – to move one person away for something like that is not insurmountable”. She later added that she was “petrified” of bumping into him again.

The female officer was efficiently supported throughout by her Federation Representative, PC William Jeavons of West Yorkshire Police, whose ‘day job’ is spent as part of North Bradford’s NPT team. In his evidence to the Tribunal PC Jeavons said: The Chief Inspector handling the Stage 1 UPP Appeal told the female officer that “no one would thank him for moving her away from her present Division” and PC Jeavons took that to mean that she was a problem that shouldn’t be passed on. PC Jeavons was quite clear, in his and the Federation’s view, that the female officer had to change Division, completely, if her recovery and return to work was going to be sustainable.

In her written summing up to the Tribunal, the female officer submitted: “Due to the long investigation into the rape allegation, West Yorkshire Police played a part in my absence because of their failure to consider my numerous requests to move Division. Having suffered from depression for a number of years and now being the victim of a rape, I believe my requests to move elsewhere were justified.

I genuinely feared for my own safety when out on the streets and was petrified at the thought of bumping into the police officer of whom I had made the allegation. I firmly believe that had I been given the opportunity of a fresh start at a different Division, my attendance, with continued support from unbiased supervision, would most definitely have improved.

As a complainant in a rape case, the last thing I ever expected to happen was to lose my career.”

But Leeds barrister Oliver Thorne of KBW Chambers, instructed by Alison Walker of West Yorkshire Police’s Legal Services team, said the woman had “become impossible to manage” and “the Force had complied with all medically recommended adjustments to the officer’s schedule“.

In his own closing submission to the Tribunal panel, Mr Thorne (pictured top right) said the issue of whether the officer should have been moved out of her division was central to her case. He said: “If she had moved, she would have moved to new line management, new human resources teams and out of the environment where people knew her and where considerable allowance had been made for her.”

Mr Thorne, who appeared to struggle with the case throughout the opening day of the Hearing, further submitted that the police “had to be able to effectively manage attendance and absences from work to avoid unreasonable burdens falling on officers who were on duty”. West Yorkshire Police denies the disability discrimination claim and says proper levels of support were provided.

The Tribunal has reserved judgement in the case, which was due for decision in mid-May 2013 but, due to an unexplained delay, is expected to be delivered to the parties during the early part of July.

uPSD are aware of at least two other cases of disability discrimination involving police officers sacked by West Yorkshire Police. We will report on them more fully at the appropriate time but, on the face of the papers disclosed to us, they reveal a trend of the Force steamrollering their own long-serving officers out of the police service on quite flimsy grounds.

The above case, when fully reported, will feature Chief Inspector Roger Essell, a Rogue Officer already under the uPSD microscope for his famous outburst to Wakefield businessman, Tony Ramsden, who was assaulted by West Yorkshire Police following his first ever visit to a football match: “We are the police. This complaint is going nowhere. You are wasting your time“. Essell was also shielded from complaint by his own Professional Standards Department for fully sixteen months until he was publicly outed by uPSD two months ago.