Police censured over race bias case
Scotland Yard tried to "deflect" negative publicity by releasing details linked to the arrest of a police officer who had suffered race and sexual discrimination, employment tribunal judges have found.
Firearms officer Pc Carol Howard received more than £37,000 after she was discriminated against for being a black woman by her boss in the Diplomatic Protection Group, Acting Inspector David Kelly.
Judges at her employment tribunal were highly critical of the way the Metropolitan Police dealt with the case, calling for the force's internal Fairness At Work scheme to be overhauled and highlighting the fact that Ms Howard had not received an apology.
She said: "Today is not a day for celebration. I have been put through a two-year ordeal in which I have been bullied, harassed and victimised simply because of my gender and race. No amount of compensation will ever make up for the hurt and upset that I have been caused.
"Since I won my initial hearing, the Metropolitan Police has failed to apologise to me or express any regret at the treatment I received. The only reaction from the police was to smear my name by releasing misleading details of my arrests.
"I am glad that the tribunal recognised that this leak of information was a dirty trick by the Metropolitan Police aimed solely at deflecting criticism from itself while simultaneously seriously damaging my reputation.
"The arrests were, I believe, also motivated by revenge simply because I made a stand against police bullying. Even today I am still having to fight to clear my name, in this regard, as part of this ongoing nightmare.
"I did not willingly seek this employment tribunal but had no other option to pursue it after various attempts to resolve the situation internally with the police proved fruitless. In that regard, I am pleased that the tribunal has recommended that the Metropolitan Police's internal complaints system is fully and independently reviewed.
"I worked extremely hard to become a firearms officer in the Diplomatic Protection Group, was proud of my job and always gave 100%. It saddens me that I found myself in this position through no fault of my own but I do hope that lessons can be learned from my case which will allow more officers, suffering similar discriminatory treatment, to come forward."
Scotland Yard faced a barrage of negative media coverage over the case in July, and the panel found that, while the force did not name Pc Howard, a draft press statement was altered to include more detail about her three arrests linked to a domestic dispute with her estranged husband.
The judges said: "The respondent had received a lot of negative publicity and had been heavily criticised in the media as a result of the tribunal's judgment in favour of the claimant.
"We have no doubt that the second statement was issued to deflect attention and criticism from the respondent and to portray the claimant in a negative light."
Her award included £25,000 for injury to feelings, £10,000 for aggravated damages, £350 for the financial loss of not being able to do overtime while she was off sick with stress and depression, a 5% increase of £1,767.50 for delays in dealing with the case, and £282.97 interest.
Ms Howard's solicitor, Kiran Daurka, said: "We are delighted with the tribunal's recognition that Pc Carol Howard experienced an extremely distressing and humiliating time throughout more than a year of discrimination against her.
"The fact that the Metropolitan Police did not issue a public apology following the tribunal's decision only exacerbated the hurt and distress felt by our client. This was reflected in the award for aggravated damages and a top award for injury to feelings."
At the end of the employment tribunal, judges found that Ms Howard had been "singled out and targeted'' for almost a year by a senior officer.
Her case revealed a practice where advisers involved in the internal Fairness At Work complaints process were not allowed to record findings of discrimination.
A report had references to discrimination removed over concerns it would be used in a tribunal, and two other cases were cited where similar material was deleted.
The system is now under review.
Details of her arrests emerged after her tribunal victory. She was held twice by Sussex Police - once last year and once in January this year - and a file is currently with prosecutors who are considering whether to bring charges.
Ms Howard was also arrested by Scotland Yard for alleged asault in April this year, but has since been told that she will face no further action.