Asian officer loses racial bias case against Met

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The Independent Online

One of the two senior Asian officers suing the Metropolitan Police for racial discrimination has lost his claim after alleging that a "golden circle" of white officers had been chosen to run Britain's largest force.

Commander Shabir Hussain, 45, who is one of the highest-ranked ethnic minority officers in the country, brought an employment tribunal case alleging he had been repeatedly overlooked for promotion by Sir Ian Blair, the Met's commissioner, because "my face did not fit and did not fit because I am not white".

But after a hearing last month which heard evidence from Sir Ian that the blocking of promotion for an Asian officer by him would have been an "extraordinary aberration", Mr Hussain's claim for racial discrimination and unlawful deduction of earnings was thrown out.

The judgment is a significant victory for Sir Ian, who is facing a catalogue of damaging race claims from Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, including allegations that the commissioner sidelined him from further promotion and sought to oust him from Scotland Yard.

The Yard said the employment tribunal had found there was "no substance" to Mr Hussain's claims. A spokesman said: "We are pleased to be vindicated of racially discriminating against Commander Hussain and we are disappointed that he felt it necessary to bring this case.

"The tribunal has clearly recognised that our treatment of Commander Hussain has been fair, appropriate and transparent."

At the three-day hearing at the tribunal in Stratford, east London, Mr Hussain said he had been rejected for promotion from his rank of commander to deputy assistant commissioner an "unprecedented" four times, compared to white colleagues he described as being Sir Ian's "favourite sons and daughters", who had succeeded after two attempts.

During one promotion assessment in 2006, Mr Hussain was given a mark of 3+ by Sir Ian while four of the five remaining candidates were given "exceptional" marks of four or five. But during evidence to the tribunal last month, Sir Ian firmly rejected claims that was evidence of his preference for a "golden circle" of white officers.

He said: "I have said there is no favourite few. I absolutely refute the suggestion that any racial motivation, any bias, conscious or unconscious, could possibly influence me in decisions I have taken and the discussions around senior posts I have had."

Despite an assertion at the hearing from Lord Stevens, the former Met commissioner, that he would have expected Mr Hussain to be promoted further, Sir Ian said it would be wrong to consider reaching the rank of commander a failure. There are 25 commanders in the Met, which has more than 31,000 officers, and only a maximum of 10 deputy assistant commissioner roles.

Mr Hussain, whose lawyers said his assignment to take charge of the police training college at Hendon in north London was evidence that he was in a "career cul-de-sac", said his claim had highlighted deficiencies in the Met's promotion system and insisted he would be returning to his role in the force.

He said: "I'm disappointed but the hearing did expose the shortcomings of the promotion process. I aim to carry on with my career as normal."

The decision came as controversy continued to rage around the employment tribunal claim by Mr Ghaffur. He claimed at the weekend that he had hired a team of security guards after receiving a number of death threats, some of them allegedly from serving Metropolitan Police officers.

Mr Ghaffur, Britain's most senior ethnic minority officer, was also considering taking a leave of absence from the Yard as a result of the threats, which he said he had not reported to the Yard because he no longer believed the force could protect him.

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