Two sacked Whitby RNLI crew members 'won't get a second chance' as appeals prove unsuccessful

Whitby Lifeboat Station.
Whitby Lifeboat Station.

The two sacked Whitby RNLI crew members have expressed their disappointment on social media after their appeals were unsuccessful.

There was a national outcry after Ben Laws and Joe Winspear were stood down from their roles in early May in a spat over inappropriate mugs.

Whitby lifeboat.

Whitby lifeboat.

The pair have now expressed their thoughts on Facebook.

Speaking for the first time since the news broke, bank worker and former trainee crew member Joe has accused the charity of wasting thousands of pounds on the investigation.

He expressed his thanks for everyone who has supported them and said it “is a heartbreaking decision as all we have ever wanted to do was to save lives at sea.

“The mugs were a lighthearted joke between the crew of which no one of the crew was offended.”

He added: “We have had a huge media reaction and the RNLI have released several press releases making myself out in a extremely bad light. I feel that the punishment doesn’t reflect the situation - the mug wasn’t intended to be kept on station.

“Everyone makes mistakes from time to time but it seems the RNLI don’t give second chances.”

He described the news that his appeal has been unsuccessful as “devastating”. “Anybody that knows me will know that I am lifeboat through and through and today’s news is devastating.”

Crewman of 15 years Ben Laws also took to Facebook to vent his thoughts. He posted: “I’m sad to say goodbye to the RNLI today, it’s been a great 15 years, I’ve met and served with some awesome lads and lasses and their wives, girlfriends, families etc.

“You’ve all been great and one time we were a great big happy family down there.

“We’ve had some horrendous jobs, some mint jobs, saved loads of lives, dogs, deers, sinking trawlers, cut offs, plane crashes, tow ins , wound up boats, injured people, we steamed 40 miles in the fog for a guy with toothe ache, recovered too many unfortunate people who didn’t make it, but we always did it with pride respect and dignity, three words the RNLI could do with looking up in the dictionary.”

He added: “Out of all of this no good has come just a massive wedge driven into the crew and six good crew members gone.”

Posts were also made from the official Whitby RNLI accounts on Twitter and Facebook on Monday night, which were later deleted.

One accused the RNLI of “a ridiculous witch hunt against its own people.”

Another added: “We are off service a lot of the time now, as we sacked some of our crew and the rest work away at sea.”

Mr Winspear and Mr Laws were first stood down over saucy ‘Secret Santa’ jokey mugs which were deemed to be a safeguarding breach as they were said to feature a naked woman.
Four other crew members later quit in solidarity.

The RNLI said in a statement issued to the Whitby Gazette: "Following a fair and robust investigation and appeal process, we have upheld our decision to stand down two crew members from Whitby RNLI.

"Volunteers are entitled to appeal against our decisions and each case is considered on an individual basis. In this case, no new evidence was presented to us and we stand by our original decision.

"We recognise the years of dedication it takes to become a crew member and do not stand volunteers down lightly. But, like any emergency service, the RNLI sets high standards and expects all its volunteers and staff to set an example, not just in terms of their maritime expertise but also in their behaviour and respect for others.

"One volunteer was stood down for social media activity which targeted a member of RNLI staff without their knowledge and produced graphic sexual images which went far beyond banter.

"The other volunteer produced a hardcore pornographic image of a fellow crew member on a mug. Some newspapers created their own image of a mug, but the actual image produced by the volunteer was so graphic that no newspaper would be able to print it without breaking the law.

"We will continue to challenge any inappropriate behaviours and practices by staff or volunteers, and we do this for the thousands of volunteers who are committed to doing the right thing as they operate our 238 lifeboat stations 24/7.

"The remaining volunteer crew at Whitby are working closely with the RNLI to operate an effective lifesaving operation at Whitby lifeboat station. We would ask the local community to continue to support our volunteers, in what has been a challenging time, as they remain dedicated to saving lives on the Yorkshire coast."

The story has sparked a furious backlash against the RNLI, with many donors in Whitby threatening to withdraw their support.

The Whitby sackings followed another high profile case in Scarborough where the long-serving coxswain Tom Clark MBE, was stood down.

Mr Clark was dismissed from his role after the RNLI said he had led an “unauthorised” training exercise.

More than 4,000 people signed a petition urging the charity to re-instate him.