A POLICEWOMAN who suffered discrimination and harassment at the hands of fellow officers in North Yorkshire has been awarded £20,000 in damages.
The former firearms officer – identified only as Miss M for security reasons – raised a catalogue of complaints, including being asked by a training inspector if she wanted a pink gun.
During a training session, she was ordered to follow a sniffer dog to a cabinet which contained pornographic magazines. Miss M was also told that women did not have loud enough voices to shout during operations.
At the end of last year, an employment tribunal in London found in favour of the officer in three out of seven claims she made against North Yorkshire Police.
Miss M’s solicitor, Damian Kelly, yesterday confirmed the award of £20,000 in damages to his client, who no longer works as a firearms officer but is still a serving police officer.
Last night the North Yorkshire force pledged to learn lessons from the case.
The county’s police and crime commissioner, Julia Mulligan, said: “This was clearly a distressing case for the officer, and it is right she has been awarded damages.
“We must now focus on the lessons we have learned and improve the support for officers who make complaints.
“Speaking generally, I know how difficult it can be for a woman in a male-dominated environment. I want to ensure we have a fair and equal workplace for all.”
A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said: “In view of the tribunal’s earlier findings, the force accepts that the claimant officer was entitled to an award of damages.
“These have been assessed as being in the middle band of the amounts set out in the law for compensation for injury to feelings in cases of this kind.
“We take on board the tribunal’s additional award for extra distress caused, in the main, by the officer’s original complaints not having been investigated as quickly as they ought to have been.
“The force does not intend to appeal against the tribunal’s awards.
“Lessons learned from the case have been, and will continue to be, carried into effect. For legal reasons – including the national security rules which apply to aspects of the case – we are not in a position to issue any further statement about the issues in this claim.”
The tribunal found North Yorkshire Police had subjected Miss M to harassment in respect of “cultural issues” in the firearms unit, discriminated against and victimised her by failing to deal with her complaints and indirectly discriminated against her by failing to supply body armour.
However, it also decided the force did not discriminate over Miss M wanting to take leave to pursue a sport, a firearms assessment or an order from the chief constable and it concluded she had not been adversely affected by whistleblowing.
Miss M completed her training as an authorised firearms officer in 2006. Between 2006 and 2010 she would periodically attend courses run by the North Yorkshire Police firearms training unit.
The tribunal stated she was subjected to “a hostile environment” as “the trainers were mindful that [Miss M] was something of a novelty, being one of only a very small number of female officers in the firearms unit”.
Its ruling also said: “It is certainly the case that the trainers had little or no diversity and equal opportunities training.”
After December’s verdict, Mr Kelly said: “It is very unfortunate that this case ever came before an employment tribunal.
“There were many opportunities when North Yorkshire Police could and should have sorted the underlying issues. Time, money and a great deal of stress to [Miss M] could have been avoided.”
He went on: “No organisation is without fault but when those faults are reported by a serving police officer they should be taken seriously and not “brushed under the carpet” as the employment tribunal has found.”
Mr Kelly also said: “[Miss M] is a well-liked officer and has colleagues supporting her, but the tribunal’s findings against the force are tinged with sadness as she had wanted to be a firearms officer.”