Stewart Tendler, Times (London), June 30
Three white officers who were “hung out to dry” as an example of how non-discriminatory the Metropolitan Police has become have won £90,000 in compensation.
The Met has agreed to pay £25,000 to Detective Constable Tom Hassell, 60, and £32,500 to acting Detective Inspector Paul Whatmore, 39, and Detective Sergeant Colin Lockwood, 55. The men had claimed that they were victims of a “witch-hunt” driven by political correctness in the wake of the Macpherson Report, which accused the police of institutionalised racism.
The trio were disciplined after Mr Hassell was said to have mispronounced the word shi’ites as “shitties” and “shites” in front of Detective Sergeant Shabnam Chaudhri, a 40-year-old Asian woman. He also allegedly likened Muslim headwear to tea cosies at a race-relations course in 1999.
Giving its decision, an employment tribunal attacked Sir Ian Blair, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, for “hanging out to dry” the three officers. The tribunal concluded that Sir Ian had “made an example” of the officers to prove to the public that racist and politically incorrect behaviour would not be tolerated.
Yesterday Scotland Yard refused to comment on the legal bill for the case, which has been estimated at £75,000.
Mr Hassell, who retired last year, was suspended from duty for three months. His two colleagues were also suspended for failing to intervene after Miss Chaudhri complained of racism.
All three were brought before a disciplinary panel in June 2001 and found guilty of inappropriate behaviour, but the board ruled that there should be no further action.
The tribunal heard that Sir Ian found the panel’s decision “extraordinary” and sought legal advice about having it overturned. They were later cleared on appeal by Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, the most senior Asian officer at the Yard.
In evidence to the tribunal Sir Ian said he ordered that the men should be punished, but only if the allegations were proved.
“From what I knew of the case, this was not an isolated, one-off statement,” he said. “It was a series of gratuitous, offensive and deliberate statements made in the presence of a member of staff of a particular faith and race.”
Ian Pritchard-Witts, the tribunal chairman, ruled that the Yard was justified in suspending the officers during an investigation but concluded that Sir Ian’s intervention was unlawful. “We take the view, using his own words, that white officers were to be hung out to dry. He prejudiced the matter,” Mr Pritchard-Witts said.”
Yesterday Mr Lockwood said: “It is not just us who have suffered but our families, too. We have had to fight tooth and nail for this compensation and it is a fraction of what some officers from minority ethnic groups have been paid by the Met in other settlements.
“This tribunal found the Commissioner responsible for 17 acts of unfavourable treatment based on our race.”
In a statement on Monday, the Yard said that it was “disappointed” with the tribunal ruling.