A recent tribunal has ruled that two female officers were treated unfairly during an investigation and stated that it was detrimental to put the pair of officers on restricted duties.
A tribunal has ruled that two female officers were treated unfairly when they were placed on restricted duties after giving evidence against a colleague in a separate trial and have both been awarded significant sums for sex discrimination.
Jane Higham, who since the case has been promoted to superintendent, and former detective inspector Laura Escott claimed that a decision to place them on gross misconduct charges was due to discrimination from the Greater Manchester Police (GMP). The two female offices who both worked in GMP’s professional standards board (PSB) told the tribunal that they were punished for making allegations against a former colleague who was bringing a case forward due to race discrimination.
In February 2015, both of the officers were due to be witnesses for GMP at an employment tribunal claim that was brought by inspector Scott Winters, who claimed that the police force had discriminated him racially because he reprimanded a white office for calling one of his senior colleagues by his first name instead of the appropriate title.
However, Higham stated that the issues which led to her claiming for sex discrimination began when she told GMP’s counsel about a previous allegation with regards to Winters in 1998, when he allegedly grabbed a female colleague and pinned her against a wall. This point was made in the cross examination of Winters. In contrast to Higham, Escott denied that she made any disclosure with regards to the female employee and that she was unaware of any information disclosed by Higham.
The claim that Winters brought to the court was settled outside of the courtroom.
Following this, Winters wrote to GMP in which he expressed his concern about both the female officers testimonies and a potential claim for defamation surrounding the allegations that they filed. Winters stated that the complaint that he had assaulted a female office were completely false, that it never happened, it was never reported and it was not investigated. Following an independent investigation into the complaint from Winters, both of the female officers were referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). This is when they were told that they were being investigated for gross misconduct in relation to the testimony.
However the evidence that was submitted to the IPCC showed that complaints had been submitted against Winters in 1998, and the report showed the female officer involved in the incidence had also made allegations of bullying against him which had been supported by other police officers.
During the investigation into gross misconduct both Higham and Escott were placed on restricted duties and removed from the PSB, which the tribunal ruled was detrimental to both of their careers.
Following this Escott emailed deputy chief constable Ian Pilling as she believed that he would be able to take action and put things right. She stated that she was being used as collateral damage and expressed her feelings that as female officers she and Higham were both being treated unfairly and as expandable by GMP.
Higham told the tribunal that the investigation into gross misconduct was a massive blow for her and that she considered being placed on restrictive duties as an extreme embarrassment. She further added that the actions of senior officers had been vindictive and highly damaging to both her and Escott’s wellbeing.
Pilling stated that the reason for placing the female officers on restrictive duties was because of a blanket policy which was invoked whenever an allegation was raised, however the tribunal found that the same course of action had not been followed with four male police officers.
The tribunal ruled in favour of both officers, stating that they had been treated less fairly than male officers in comparable situations and the evidence of a blanket policy as the reason in this case was poor. As a result of the findings Escott was awarded £30,000 and Higham was awarded £12,500.
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