'Campaign to remove' gay officer
A gay police officer was subjected to discrimination, harassment and victimisation in his work for the Metropolitan Police, an employment tribunal has ruled.
Pc Dan Lichters, 34, who was friends with entertainer Michael Barrymore, was asked by colleagues if he had "sh****d any other celebrities", implying the dog handler had a sexual relationship with the TV star, the tribunal in London was told.
Despite being described as an "exemplary officer", Mr Lichters was subjected to a "campaign to remove him" from the unit because of his sexuality, the tribunal heard.
When his puppy was attacked and injured by a pitbull, rumours were spread that Mr Lichters was "having gay sex on Hampstead Heath" and had neglected the dog.
He also went on to endure accusations of gross misconduct and even criminal allegations after his police dog bit a member of the public who had attacked it.
But the tribunal found all of the accusations he faced were baseless and Mr Lichters had been targeted because he is gay.
The ruling said: "In our judgment that lack of trust, suspicion and dislike of the claimant existed throughout the (MPS' Dog Support) Unit.
"It arose (from) or was inextricably linked to his sexual orientation. We were not given any other basis for it.
"There was no evidence that his behaviour within the unit warranted this treatment or mistrust by colleagues or senior officers.
"The incidents were linked by the respondent's attitude towards the claimant - which was one of mistrust, disbelief, dislike and suspicion throughout his time in the unit when the evidence shows he was a hard-working and exemplary officer."
The tribunal heard how on his first day in the unit an inspector said: "Oh, you're one of those are you?" referring to him being an openly gay officer. The tribunal found it was "likely" that that comment was made, as had been the one whether he had "sh****d any other celebrities".
It also found it likely that another inspector told him: "We don't want queers in the dog section."
When Mr Lichters' puppy was attacked by another dog the tribunal heard: "The claimant became aware around this time of a number of rumours circulating within the unit about how the puppy was injured.
"One of those rumours was that instead of how he stated the incident had occurred, he had actually been having gay sex on Hampstead Heath and had neglected the puppy, which had been injured by being stabbed with a screwdriver."
Mr Lichters heard from a former colleague that there was a "campaign to remove him from the unit" and that he had been "discredited before he started".
Mr Lichters said: "I have suffered five years of discrimination, victimisation and harassment due to my sexual orientation.
"I feel completely vindicated by the tribunal who said they believed my account entirely. I wish to carry on serving the public as a police officer, but hope the Metropolitan Police learn from the tribunal's findings."
Mr Lichters' lawyer, Simon Cuthbert - an employment law specialist at Slater and Gordon - said: "It's extremely disappointing that officers are facing this sort of prejudice and discrimination.
"The Metropolitan Police needs to take this tribunal ruling very seriously and take swift steps to address the failings which have been identified.
"Mr Lichters is an exemplary police officer and suffered years of discrimination and harassment simply because he is gay.
"He was also victimised when he complained about his treatment. The Met needs to ensure people are treated equally and not discriminated against because of their sexual orientation."