Police ignored own press policy to smear officer, tribunal finds

The Metropolitan Police ignored its own press policy to deliberately smear a police officer who brought a successful claim of race and sex discrimination against the force, a tribunal has found.

PC Carol Howard (picture credit: Nick Ansell/PAWire)
PC Carol Howard (picture credit: Nick Ansell/PAWire)

PC Carol Howard, a diplomatic protection group officer dubbed the 'poster girl of the 2012 Olympics', was awarded £37,000 including aggravated damages for the Met’s treatment of her.

In July, the tribunal found that PC Howard had been the victim of race and sex discrimination at the hands of her superior officers.

In the year leading up to the tribunal’s decision PC Howard was arrested three times by Sussex Police for reasons arising from an unrelated domestic dispute with her estranged husband and she was suspended from duty in April.

No charges have been brought against her, although she is on police bail until next week while Sussex Police awaits the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service on whether to proceed with a case.

The Met’s media policy is that if anyone, including a police officer, is arrested but not charged, they are not named.

A ‘Gold Group’ of senior police officers, led by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Pat Gallan, agreed a statement to be used by the press team, "if asked", in response to queries from journalists about PC Howard’s arrests and suspension.

The original statement did not identify PC Howard, but the following day, after queries from journalists, a second version of the statement, changed by Gallan and James Nadin, a senior Met press officer, gave details that made it relatively straightforward to identify her, and referred journalists to Sussex Police for further information.

The tribunal found: "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."

At the same time, the Met Police Commissioner, Commander Bernard Hogan-Howe, was interviewed by the media about the tribunal’s judgement but made no apology or expression of regret about how PC Howard had been treated.

When deciding the level of the compensation to be awarded to PC Howard, the tribunal awarded her aggravated damages of £10,000, while branding one of her immediate superiors "malicious, vindictive and spiteful".

The tribunal found that the Met's conduct towards PC Howard, including the release of information "over and above what was required which it knew would cause serious damage to the claimant’s reputation" was  "insulting, malicious and oppressive."

The tribunal also recommended that the Met review all cases under its Fairness at Work procedures since 2009 after it emerged that the force was routinely deleting references to racial and sexual discrimination from internal grievance procedures.

Commenting on the tribunal’s judgement, PC Howard’s lawyer, Kiran Daurka of Slater & Gordon, said: "We are delighted with the tribunal’s recognition that PC Carol Howard experienced an extremely distressing and humiliating time throughout more than a year of discrimination against her. The fact that the Metropolitan Police did not issue a public apology following the tribunal's decision only exacerbated the hurt and distress felt by our client. This was reflected in the award for aggravated damages and a top award for injury to feelings. We now sincerely hope that the tribunal's recommendations are implemented as soon as possible, as set out in the tribunal’s judgement."

The Met said in a statement that it was commissioning an independent review of its Fairness at Work procedures and that PC Howard’s experiences would "help inform" it.

A spokesman for the force added: "We have noted the comments regarding press line. There was no intent to deflect attention, but instead to ensure that the organisation was as open and transparent as possible while working within our guidelines. But we are deeply regretful of any additional distress this caused PC Howard."

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