Judith Gillespie: I'll sue over vile online sex slurs says Northern Ireland's most senior woman police officer
Top female cop's vow on smears
Northern Ireland's most senior woman police officer has warned she will take legal action to stop a campaign of sex slurs against her.
In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie said there would be consequences "both criminal and civil" for those who had posted "sexually explicit" and other smears against her online. She also revealed:
* She was twice turned down when she applied to join the RUC because of her gender;
* She did not rule out the possibility that she could have been appointed PSNI Chief Constable had she been a man;
* She does not regret turning down a £500,000 severance package to continue working.
Ms Gillespie said she had learnt to deal with a gossip campaign targeting her for years, but said the difference now was that false rumours were being spread publicly about her on social media.
"Throughout my police career I have had to deal with rumour and innuendo. The way I have dealt with it up until now has been to say people who know me well, and whose opinions I value, will know that what is being said is a load of nonsense ... but the difference now is, when people post things on social media it is there for others to see," she said.
Branding the smears as "nonsense" and "laughable" Ms Gillespie warned that there are "consequences" both criminal and civil, "for people who post offensive or defamatory material on a social media platform".
She said that "some people are feeling those consequences".
"You cannot with impunity post sexually explicit and malicious communications without consequence," added the Deputy Chief Constable.
When asked by this paper if she believed she would have been Chief Constable of the PSNI had she been a man she responded: "Who knows," and added: "What I can say is that I think the organisation now, and societal attitudes in general, have definitely changed and it is a less challenging place for a woman to work now than when I joined the RUC."
Ms Gillespie spoke of her determination to join the police more than 30 years ago despite being rejected twice because she was a woman.
"I would have kept applying until they got so fed up with me that they let me in. We all suffer unfairness in our lives at some stage... but you can turn it into something positive that makes you driven," she said.
"And to be the very first female chief officer in Northern Ireland was a remarkable achievement for somebody that had been turned down twice when I applied to join," Ms Gillespie added.
In March 2011, less than two years into her post as Deputy Chief Constable, Ms Gillespie could have retired with a £500,000 severance payout. Instead she opted to stay on in the job, a decision she said she did not regret.
"I certainly wasn't mentally ready for retirement and I felt I would have been leaving with a lot of unfinished business."
However, after "an amazing year of milestones" – with successful policing operations throughout major events such as the G8 – she said she felt "it is time to do something else".
Judith Gillespie joined the RUC in 1982. She became the first ever female chief officer in the history of Northern Ireland policing when appointed Assistant Chief Constable of the PSNI in May 2004. She was made Deputy Chief Constable in June 2009 and was the Acting Chief Constable in August 2009 until the arrival of Matt Baggott. She is a graduate of the FBI's National Executive Institute.