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Police discriminated against white heterosexual male, tribunal finds

Tribunal finds Cheshire force turned down recruit on basis of ‘sexual orientation, race and sex’ 

Adam Forrest
Saturday 23 February 2019 13:50 GMT
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Constabulary has promised to review findings
Constabulary has promised to review findings (Cheshire Police)

A police force accused of rejecting a potential recruit because he is a white heterosexual male has been found guilty of discrimination in a landmark employment case.

Matthew Furlong applied to join Cheshire Police in 2017 and was told at the interview “it was refreshing to meet someone as well prepared as yourself” and that he “could not have done any more”.

But he was later told he had lost out to other candidates, leading his father – a detective inspector on the force – to lodge a complaint.

An employment tribunal found Cheshire Police had discriminated against the 25-year-old on the grounds of sexual orientation, race and sex. It ruled that the constabulary used positive action – where employers take steps to boost the diversity of their workforce – in a discriminatory way.

Mr Furlong’s lawyers said it was the first reported case of its kind in the UK.

Jennifer Ainscough, an employment specialist at Slater and Gordon, said: “Matthew was denied his dream job simply because he was a white, heterosexual male.

“Had he not been such an exceptional candidate he may not even have suspected anything was wrong and this unlawful and unacceptable selection process may have been allowed to continue.

“Positive action is an important tool to support a diverse workforce that reflects the community in which we live.

“However it must be applied lawfully to ensure the highest calibre of candidates are recruited regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation and to ensure standards in police forces are maintained to properly protect our society.”

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The tribunal in Liverpool heard four days of evidence before reaching its conclusion. It ruled that while positive action can be used to ensure greater diversity, it should only be applied to distinguish between candidates who were all equally well qualified for a role.

The force’s claim it had seen 127 candidates who were equally suitable for the role of police constable was judged a “fallacy”.

Imposing an artificially low threshold – candidates were assigned only a pass or fail rather than any kind of score before being put forward for possible recruitment – was deemed an inadequate way to assess them.

Cheshire Police was among a number of forces criticised in 2015 for having no black officers, but has since taken steps to improve opportunities for Bame (black, Asian and minority ethnic) candidates.

The case has been adjourned until later this year for a hearing to determine the amount of compensation. A spokesman for Cheshire Police said: “We have been notified of the outcome of the tribunal and will review the findings over the coming days.”

Additional reporting by PA

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