Wrongly-sacked Asian policeman 'was victim of racism'

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The Independent Online

An Asian police sergeant wrongly sacked after being accused of sending racist hate mail was himself a victim of racism, an inquiry has concluded.

The Metropolitan Police Authority inquiry was launched after an employment tribunal found Gurpal Virdi had been the victim of racial discrimination.

Speaking ahead of the publication of the inquiry's report, chairman David Muir said that conclusion was borne out by the evidence he had seen.

"The employment tribunal found that race was an issue," Mr Muir told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I think from all the evidence we heard there are ways in which racism creeps into the equation in ways which are unhelpful at this particular stage when the Metropolitan Police are trying to recruit more ethnic minority officers. It doesn't send the right message."

The inquiry team was "equally concerned" that Sgt Virdi was still suspended from work, Mr Muir said.

"Sergeant Virdi should return to work ASAP (as soon as possible)," he added.

The Met had to change the way it dealt with officers who had complaints about their treatment, Mr Muir continued.

"We do indicate that there are many things which are changing but in respect of employment tribunal cases I think there had to be a recognition of how these cases are handled and, of course, look at ways that early intervention can be taken before the person goes down the damaging road of employment tribunals," he said.

The inquiry was announced by the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, Lord Harris of Haringey, in September last year.

Mr Virdi was suspended from the force following events at Acton police station, west London, four years ago.

A group of 13 officers, including himself, received racist literature on December 24, 1997, and on January 19, 1998, and a number of civilian staff also received separate racist literature.

The racist material, which included the message, "Not wanted. Keep the police white. Leave or else", appeared to have been sent through the internal mail.

During the investigation that followed, a female white police officer was questioned and eliminated from the inquiries.

On April 15, 1998, Mr Virdi was arrested for offences of distributing racist hate mail. He was suspected of sending the hate mail to himself so he could claim discrimination.

The Crown Prosecution Service decided not to proceed with criminal charges, but on February 7 2000, Mr Virdi appeared before a police disciplinary tribunal.

On March 3 2000 he was found guilty and dismissed from the force.

He took the force to an employment tribunal and on August 23, 2000, the tribunal found that he had been discriminated against on the grounds of his race.

Mr Virdi then appealed against the decision of the police disciplinary tribunal and on November 30 2000 he was reinstated, but because of legal issues relating to the employment tribunal has yet to return to work.

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