Policewoman in bias claim ‘was led to porn stash’

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A Yorkshire policewoman is suing her force for sex discrimination, claiming male officers asked her if she wanted a pink gun and led her towards a stash of pornographic magazines during a training exercise.

The former firearms officer, who can only be named as “Miss M” for security reasons, told a tribunal that her colleagues at North Yorkshire Police subjected her to a campaign of abuse and humiliation.

She was told that female officers did not have loud enough voices to shout during operations and that two should never be paired together because they would need to go to the toilet at the same time, the Central London employment tribunal heard,

If she made mistakes she was severely criticised, the hearing was told, but male colleagues’ mistakes, including when one shot another in the face by accident, were laughed off.

Giving evidence yesterday, Miss M said that, during a training exercise at a disused complex of buildings, she was ordered to follow a police dog which was sniffing out a kit belt hidden in a cabinet.

But when she opened the cabinet it contained hardcore pornography which her instructor, identified only as PC A, laughingly described as “gentlemen’s relish”.

She added that, while she had come across pornographic material on operations before, “it is not dealt with in an embarrassing manner. It is not personal”.

On another occasion, a training officer identified only as Pc F showed a group of male colleagues a video of a gorilla apparently performing a sex act, the tribunal heard. Miss A said: “When it began I was close to where PC F was but when I realised what was going on I walked away.”

She raised her concerns with a senior female police officer around the time the unit was eager to recruit more female firearms officers.

But she said that, at the end of a recruitment day, a new training inspector, Inspector H, asked her: “Would you like me to get you some pink guns?”.

Asked by James Berry, representing North Yorkshire Police, if he would “seriously ask you if you wanted a pink firearm” and whether it was simply a flippant comment, she replied: “I just saw it as being really rude. It came across as just another step back.”

The comment was made in front of the diversity officer, she said, who simply told her Inspector H was “a dinosaur” and “you will get used to it”.

Miss M said that, during a target practice assessment, which involved hiding in bushes in a quarry and avoiding being seen, she had teamed up with another female officer.

But during the debrief afterwards, Pc A said you should “never put two females together because if one needs to go it is OK, but what if both need to go?”, she told the hearing.

Miss M said: “It was a stark, sexist comment. We took that as saying females were not capable of urinating like men on the spot.

“You just didn’t hear that sort of comment in the police force any more.

“I remember it because it was such a strange thing to hear, but none of us complained because you are at the mercy of these people. It is an instructor who has your career in his hands.”

She told the tribunal that one male colleague shot another in the face during a training exercise, causing him “severe bruising”.

She said: “Shooting someone in the face because you have allowed them to get too close to you is a very serious error. But it was laughed off.”

Miss M is no longer a firearms officer after failing a training course. She said: “I felt that I was left in limbo with my career.

“I felt ignored and pushed to the side. I felt that I was being [transferred] as punishment for failing the assessment.” She said she was not offered the opportunity of a reassessment, but male colleagues were.

North Yorkshire Police denies the claims and the tribunal continues.

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