Sacked PCSO has ‘amnesia’ defence accepted

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A sacked PCSO who is suing the Metropolitan Police for discrimination has successfully argued she did not know she had amnesia when she failed to declare a conviction for theft.

But a tribunal has reserved its decision on several key points that will determine whether her claims against the police force are ultimately successful.

Rachida Sobhi, 43, took the Metropolitan Police to court after she was denied a role as a police constable in December 2009, claiming she was discriminated against because of a disability.

She was denied the job – and has since been sacked – because she was reprimanded earlier that year for failing to declare a conditional discharge for theft in 1991.

But Ms Sobhi has since argued that she did not remember being arrested because she suffered dissociative amnesia stemming from personal trauma she had experienced around that time.

A preliminary hearing at the London Central Employment Tribunal yesterday was tasked to determine whether Ms Sobhi knew she had amnesia when she filled out the security form and whether she should have mentioned that on the form.

“No, I wasn’t aware,” she told Employment Judge George Sigsworth.

Ms Sobhi said she only had any recollection at all she might have been arrested when she was contacted by a vetting officer in February 2009, about two months after she filled in the security form, to ask why her fingerprints were in the police database.

“For some strange reason... I had a couple of small flashes of memory – nothing else,” she said.

“I still did not know of the existence of the dissociative amnesia then. I didn’t even know what on earth he was talking about.”

Charles Sparling, representing Metropolitan Police, said he accepted Ms Sobhi’s amnesia was real and she did not know about it at the time.

But citing medical evidence, Mr Sparling argued her disability was not long term and she was not discriminated against because of it.

Once she realised she had amnesia, it was no longer a disability impacting on her work, he argued.

However, Ms Sobhi said she had to live with the knowledge that certain triggers could spark repressed memories at any time, which rendered her amnesia an ongoing, long-term disability.

Mr Sigsworth reserved his judgement over the point. “This is not an easy case,” he said.

How Ms Sobhi’s disability is defined will affect up to five separate claims she has made against the Metropolitan Police.

The latest claim came after she was fired following a disciplinary hearing into an £80 littering fine she received for throwing a cigarette butt.