Female former Met police officer awarded £40,000 for sexual and racial harassment
Judge criticises Metropolitan Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe's lack of apology
Britain’s most powerful policeman has been criticised in a damning judgment for failing to apologise to a black female officer who was subjected to sexual and racial discrimination.
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Commissioner, attempted to “brush off” the treatment of PC Carol Howard as “insignificant”, according to an employment tribunal, which also found the firearms officer was subjected to a “insulting, malicious and oppressive” smear campaign by Scotland Yard following an earlier court victory she won against the beleaguered force.
The tribunal ruled PC Carol Howard, 35, who became Olympic Games' “poster girl” for Scotland Yard, had been bullied, harassed and victimised while serving as one of only two black officers in the 700-strong Diplomatic Protection Group.
However, the tribunal awarded her £40,000 including aggravated damages after it found Scotland Yard failed to disclose relevant evidence that backed Ms Howard’s case, criticised Sir Bernard’s failure to apologise for the discrimination and lambasted the Met for releasing information to the media that exposed the fact she had been arrested by police last year in the midst of her legal battle.
In an extraordinary finding against the Met’s most senior officer, the tribunal revealed Ms Howard had asked it to force Sir Bernard to apologise publicly, but concluded “an apology provided well after the event under compulsion does not serve any purpose”.
“It is not a sincere and genuine apology and does not make the recipient feel any better,” said the judgment. “It does not alleviate any of the hurt or suffering caused by the original acts of discrimination and victimisation.”
The tribunal criticised Sir Bernard for an interview he gave to ITV where he failed to “express any regret”, described Ms Howard’s case as “one incident”, involving “one officer”, and warned people needed to keep “a sense of balance”.
The ruling is damaging for Sir Bernard as the force continues to face damaging allegations of police racism and corruption over the Met’s handling of the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation.
It is also yet more evidence of Scotland Yard’s attempts to silence critics and whistleblowers through smears and intimidation.
Ms Howard 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.”
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Metropolitan Police Commissioner (Getty)
An initial tribunal hearing earlier this year found Ms Howard was racially and sexually discriminated against for almost a year by Acting Inspector Dave Kelly, whose behaviour made her feel “scared, vulnerable, insecure, embarrassed, humiliated, offended, belittled, upset and angry”.
An draft internal review of Ms Howard’s case found that she had been harassed and discriminated against, but these conclusions were amended on the orders of more senior officers.
The tribunal revealed that the Met initially failed to disclose original drafts of the internal review that supported Ms Howard’s claim. “No explanation has been put forward as to why these were not disclosed as part of general disclosure,” noted the tribunal.
The judgment said oral evidence by police officers that was supportive of Ms Howard’s case did not appear in their witness statements submitted by the Met’s lawyers. It said: “In the absence of legal privilege being waived we cannot determine what the cause of that was.”
Ms Howard was arrested by the Met in April - three days after an earlier employment tribunal hearing. She was then suspended. None of this was publicised.
Following an earlier tribunal ruling that found the Met had racially and sexually discriminated against Ms Howard, a senior Scotland Yard corporate press officer and deputy assistant commissioner Patricia Gallan agreed to change media briefings about the case to include suggestions that she had been arrested.
The tribunal said the new briefings “went beyond what was required” in the Met’s official media policy. The tribunal debated why this occurred, concluding: “The only significant event that had occurred in the intervening period was that the (Met) had received a lot of negative publicity and had been heavily criticised in the media as a result of the Tribunal’s judgment in the favour of the Claimant.
“We have no doubt that the second statement was issued to deflect attention and criticism from the (Met) and to portray the Claimant in a negative light.”
Ms Howard’s lawyers begged the Met not to release the statement but it was sent to various newspapers, who reported details of her arrest.
“The claimant was horrified and extremely distressed that her employer had released information that led to her being portrayed as a criminal,” said the tribunal. “She felt embarrassed, publicly humiliated and that her reputation was tarnished”.
Timeline: Carol Howard discrimination case
PC Howard submits a formal complaint alleging she has been subjected to unfair treatment by a senior officer.
20 November 2012
PC Howard takes two-week sickness leave with her medical certificate citing the reason: “Stress due to bullying and unfairness at work.”
21 March 2013
PC Howard given six months off for ill-health. Medical certificates refer to “stress disorder” and “depression”. She has 21 counselling sessions.
29 August 2013
Officers from Sussex Police arrest Howard for threats to cause criminal damage and harassment after a domestic with her estranged husband. She is not charged, and bailed pending further enquiries.
3 September 2013
PC Howard returns to work and put on restricted duties. She is not informed of the reasons of her demoted position.
14 January 2014
Det Sgt Fiona Hepworth is appointed to deal with the complaint. It later emerges she was asked to delete all references to sex or race discrimination in the final report without Howard’s consent. DS Hepworth refuses to meet Howard in the aftermath.
Sussex Police arrest Howard on suspicion of perverting the course of justice, witness intimidation and possession of an image of a child under 16 after sending her estranged husband a picture of their naked six-year-old daughter. Sussex Police later drop the assault allegation.
22 April 2014
Metropolitan Police arrest Howard on suspicion of assault in a matter related to the dispute of her estranged husband. She has since been told she will face no further action. She is suspended from the Met eight days later.
2 July 2014
Employment tribunal says Scotland Yard discriminated against Howard because of her race and sex, after a judgment found that she was “singled out and targeted” for almost a year.
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