A Metropolitan police practice of deleting records of sex and race discrimination has been exposed by an employment tribunal, according to lawyers for a black female firearms officer.
The policy emerged during a claim brought by PC Carol Howard, a 35-year-old member of the Diplomatic Protection Group (DPG), who was found to have been “singled out and targeted” for almost a year.
The judgment, issued by the Central London Employment Tribunal which heard her claim, ruled that the Met “directly discriminated” against Howard “on the grounds of sex and race” between 31 January and 29 October 2012.
A number of Howard’s complaints of “victimisation” were “well-founded”, the tribunal added. It concluded that her superior, Acting Inspector Dave Kelly, subjected her to “a course of conduct which was detrimental to her”.
The tribunal judgment said that, within a few weeks of becoming Howard’s line manager, Kelly “formed the view…that the claimant was dishonest and not up to the standard required for DPG”.
He was said to have engaged on a course of conduct “that was designed to, and which in fact did, undermine, discredit and belittle” Howard.
Her “every absence” was assumed to not be genuine, her commitment was challenged in front of colleagues and her application for an armoured response vehicle role was not supported, the panel found.
The tribunal heard that Howard submitted a formal fairness at work (FAW) complaint alleging that she had been subjected to unfair treatment by Kelly in November 2012.
The following day he was said to have approached her and during the exchange he was “shouting at her and waving his hands”, with the claimant leaving in tears.
Kelly “acted in a hostile and aggressive manner” during the incident, the tribunal judgment said.
The judgment was also critical of the way the force dealt with Howard’s FAW complaint.
It said the process concluded that there was no evidence of race or sex discrimination “without having conducted a proper investigation into the matter”.
The panel found that a detective sergeant appointed to deal with the complaint was asked to delete all references to discrimination and harassment relating to sex or race in a report.
This was done “not because they were not supported by evidence in the report, but because the claimant had brought a complaint of race and sex discrimination in the tribunal”, the judgment concluded.
Daphne Romney QC, who represented Howard, said after the decision: “What is particularly shocking is the deliberate attempt to cover up internal findings of discrimination. The outcome of the internal grievance investigation led PC Howard to believe that the investigating officer did not accept that there had been either race or sex discrimination, when clearly this was not the case.
“The Met’s evidence to the Employment Tribunal was that it has a policy of deleting any finding of discrimination from grievance investigations. This is what happened to PC Howard and it is wholly unacceptable. There needs to be wholesale change in the Met’s approach to discrimination in order to ensure that London’s Police Force treats all its employees equally regardless of any protected characteristic.”
Lawyers for the claimant, from Purley in Surrey, will seek compensation from the Met for injury to feelings and aggravated damages. The size of her claim is being assessed.
Howard’s lawyer Kiran Daurka, from Slater & Gordon, called for a public inquiry into how the force handles race discrimination claims.
She said: “This judgment is a damning indictment on the Met. The conduct of the Metropolitan Police and some of its senior officers towards Carol Howard was deplorable over the last two years.
“My client was subjected to discriminatory treatment because she is black and because she is a woman.
“Fifteen years after the Met was branded ‘institutionally racist’ they have failed in addressing discrimination which pervades the system.
“This case shows that there needs to be a complete rewrite of the Metropolitan Police’s equality procedures and an independent investigation into existing measures purporting to deal with discrimination complaints. That’s the only way to protect officers facing similar discrimination in the future.”
Howard was supported in her case by the Metropolitan Police Federation.
Its chairman John Tully said: “Whilst we are pleased that this judgment recognises that racist and sexist behaviour is unacceptable and is capable of being challenged, it is of concern that such issues are still prevalent in the Metropolitan Police Service, despite the many measures introduced to address the problem.
“Discrimination of any kind at any level is not acceptable in the police service and we must all work together to eradicate this.”
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “We are aware of the decision of the tribunal. We are disappointed at the tribunal’s finding in favour of PC Howard.
“The tribunal’s decision will now to be given full and careful consideration. We will review the findings, take legal advice and take forward any learning or actions as appropriate.”
During the time covered by her claim, Howard was one of just 12 female officers in the DPG and only one other was black.
The DPG provides protection for foreign embassies and missions in London.
The tribunal said in its conclusions: “DPG was at the relevant time, and probably still is, an almost exclusively male and predominantly white unit.
“The claimant stood out in the unit because she was different from almost everyone else in it because she was black and she was female.”
She was the only black woman in the unit managed by Kelly, the judgment said.
It went on: “She was singled out and targeted by him for almost a whole year. On his own admission he had formed a negative view of her from very early on.
“He doubted her honesty and her ability. He has not put forward any credible basis for forming such a view.”
During the tribunal Howard said she felt that she had been “singled out and chosen, as a black officer, to represent diversity and to change the public image of white police shooting black youth” after she was asked to take part in a newspaper photo shoot.
She also claimed the Met have not learned the lessons of the Macpherson report, the 1999 review into the investigation into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence that branded the force “institutionally racist”.