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Croydon's top police officer should undergo 'equality training' says tribunal into Met discrimination


CROYDON'S police chief has been told to undergo "equality training" after he refused to accept that one of his officers had been discriminated against.  

An employment tribunal found firearms officer PC Carol Howard had suffered racial and sexual discrimination while working for the Metropolitan Police.

PC Howard, 35, was today awarded damages of more than £37,000 after she was bullied, harassed and victimised while serving with the elite Diplomatic Protection Group (DPG).

The panel had previously found that PC Howard, from Purley, had been singled out by a superior officer under the command of Chief Superintendent Andy Tarrant, who was head of the unit before becoming Croydon borough commander in July.

Judge Harjit Gewal criticised Met commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe for failing to apologise or express regret for the way in which PC Howard had been treated.

But she also singled out Chief Supt Tarrant for causing PC Howard "particular distress" by refusing to acknowledge Acting Inspector Dave Kelly had done anything wrong despite the "damning" evidence against him.

It recommended that Chief Supt Tarrant should be provided with equality training, including education about "unconscious bias", within six months and that an internal investigation should consider whether he had committed misconduct.

Ms Howard brought a claim of discrimination against the Met at the Central London Employment Tribunal earlier this year.

The panel found that she had been "directly discriminated" against "on the grounds of sex and race" between January 31 and 29 October 2012.

Acting Insp Kelly, who was PC Howard's superior at the DPG, which protects foreign embassies in London, believed she was "dishonest and not up to the standard required" after several short periods of sickness.

He openly challenged her commitment in front of colleagues, asked them "wholly inappropriate" questions about her personal relationships and blocked her requests to move to another unit.

PC Howard approached Chief Supt Tarrant and expressed concerns about Acting Insp Kelly's behaviour, indicating that she was thinking of leaving the Met.

He tried to dissuade her and indicated that he was prepared to allow her to move to another role with the armed response team CO19. Normally officers are expected to work in a particular unit for at least two years before being considered for transfer.

Ten days later, Chief Supt Tarrant changed his mind about helping PC Howard. He approached Acting Insp Kelly, who was blocking the move, and gave him a "more watertight" reason for the application to be turned down.

Judge Gewal said that PC Howard saw CO19 as a "way out"  and the decision to block the move had led her to take a two-week absence from work because of "stress due to bullying and unfairness at work".

An internal inquiry into PC Howard's treatment found that Acting Insp Kelly's behaviour had been "inappropriate" and "inexplicable", but the officer who undertook the investigation was asked to delete any reference to sex or racial discrimination.

When the tribunal heard evidence from Chief Supt Tarrant earlier this year, he steadfastly refused to accept Acting Insp Kelly, who has since been transferred out of DPG, had done anything wrong.

"Throughout the hearing the claimant had difficulty sleeping and keeping food down," read this week's ruling. "The claimant was particularly distressed by Chief Supt Tarrant's failure to acknowledge that there had been any shortcomings in Acting Insp Kelly's treatment of her."

He refused to acknowledge Acting Insp Kelly's misconduct despite "damning evidence" from two police officers who described him as a "bully", "overbearing", "intrusive" and "unreasonable".

The tribunal found that Chief Supt Tarrant's attitude during the proceedings was an aggravating factor causing "additional distress" to PC Howard.

Croydon's new borough commander denied that he had said he would help PC Howard move to CO19. 

"It appeared to us from subsequent communication that he did do so," the tribunal said.

The Met's Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) will now begin an investigation into Acting Insp Kelly's conduct.

Darren Bird, assistant director at DPS, has instructed the unit to ensure the disciplinary investigation is broad enough to pick up any misconduct issues relating to Chief Supt Tarrant and three other officers, the ruling said. 

The tribunal recommended that the Met review how it dealt with complaints about discrimination since 2009 and whether or not, in other cases, references about sex and racial discrimination had been removed.

It called for a wide-ranging assessment of how allegations of discrimination are dealt with, including who they are investigated by and what steps are taken to ensure the process is open and transparent.

Recommendations made by employment tribunals are non-binding. If they are not acted upon, however, increased damages could be awarded. The power that allows tribunals to make recommendations which refer to the wider workforce could be scrapped under government plans.

This week's ruling also revealed that Scotland Yard tried to "deflect" negative publicity about PC Howard's tribunal by releasing information about her when she was arrest over allegations which were later dropped.

Ms Howard said: "I have been put through a two-year ordeal which I have been bullied, harassed and victimised simply because of my gender and race.

"I am glad the tribunal recognised that this leak of information was a dirty trick by the Metropolitan Police aimed solely at deflecting criticism from itself while simultaneously seriously damaging my reputation.

"The arrests were, I believe, motivated by revenge simply because I made a stand against police bullying."

The tribunal's judgement said the Met's failure to express regret or apologise for how PC Howard had been treated left her feeling "bewildered" and "added insult to injury".

Kiran Daurka, her solicitor, said: "The fact that the Met did not issue a public apology following the tribunal's decision only exacerbated the hurt and distress felt by our client. This was reflected in the award for aggravated damages and a top award for injury to feelings."  

A statement released by Scotland Yard said Deputy Assistant Patricia Gallan had written to PC Howard to apologise for what had happened. 

"The case is in the process of being reviewed," a spokesperson said. "We have noted the comments regarding the press lines, there was no intent to deflect attention, but instead to ensure the organisation was open and transparent as possible while working within our guidelines. But we are deeply regretful of any additional distress this caused PC Howard." 

Croydon's top police officer should undergo 'equality training' says tribunal into Met discrimination

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