Met Police accused by its own advisers of treating Sikh officer 'disgracefully'

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The Independent Online

The Metropolitan Police Service was accused by its own independent advisers yesterday of subjecting a Sikh officer to a "disgraceful" internal investigation and a "high-profile character assassination".

The Metropolitan Police Service was accused by its own independent advisers yesterday of subjecting a Sikh officer to a "disgraceful" internal investigation and a "high-profile character assassination".

The Met's independent advisory group, set up to advise officers on race issues after the bungled investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, said the force had learnt nothing from the inquiry into the black teenager's murder.

Sergeant Gurpal Virdi was sacked after racist hate mail was sent to 13 of the 15 officers from ethnic minorities in the Ealing division, west London, where he worked.

At a four-week disciplinary hearing in March, the Met accused Sgt Virdi of sending the material to himself and other officers to support a claim of racial discrimination against the force. But an employment tribunal found last month that there was no evidence that he sent the letters and concluded that Sgt Virdi was the victim of racial discrimination by the Met.

Publishing its own report on the case yesterday, the advisory group said the Met's treatment of Sgt Virdi had been "horrendous and disgraceful".

Beverley Thompson, who chairs the group, said Scotland Yard had not followed the recommendations of the Macpherson report into the death of Stephen Lawrence. "This has been a most disgraceful character assassination of Sgt Virdi. We are not convinced that the Metropolitan Police Service has learnt any of the lessons from the report."

When asked if he would apologise to Sgt Virdi, Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Grieve, who heads the Met's racial and violent crimes task force, said: "The answer is no. I have deep sympathy with the situation he finds himself in but it is not appropriate to apologise partway through a legal process."

The force has now set up an independent inquiry into the case, which will be led by David Muir, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority.

Sgt Virdi said: "I want justice from the Metropolitan Police and I intend to fight to clear my name. I don't think they have learnt anything - they will take a long time to do so. How can I go back into the service when the people who did this to me are still working there?"

Last month's employment tribunal in London found that Sgt Virdi was treated differently from a white female officer who was also a suspect in the Met's investigation.

Dr Kirpal Sahota, vicechairman of the independent advisory group, said: "We are calling for the force to publicly apologise to Gurpal Virdi for the horrendous experience he and his family have been put through and urgently consider ways to recompense him."

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