Sunday, 19 May 2013

Learning Lessons - Humberside Employment Tribunal Case

The IPSG assisted an officer in a recent case at Leeds Employment Tribunal.
This case was about bullying in the driver training unit, whistleblowing and an abuse of power where a decision was made to transfer a long serving police officer and trainer out of the driver training department with no notice and failed to deal with the officer in accordance with the Police (Conduct) Regulations which would have provided him with the necessary safeguards.

The driver training superviser stated that he did not believe that neither he or a Superintendent  had taken any notes when dealing with the officer who had been transferred.

There was no aftercare for the officer who ultimately became ill and the force bullied him into returning early againt the medical advice of his GP.

Additionally, when the officer made a formal grievance the force failed to follow the force grievance procedure known as RADAW or use the correct forms. The officer was also unaware that he had a right of appeal.

There was an issue concerning the safety of motorcycle tyres used by the force for high speed training which had resulted in the tyres being stripped to the chords. The force had failed to ensure that independent examination of the tyres were undertaken to establish whether they were suitable for the type of use to which the tyre was being put. With this type of tyre there is no tread in the centre so is difficult to measure.

The driver training department had also been involved in purchasing a number of second hand stinger devices from South Yorkshire Police for £4000 but unfortunately they were not supplied with the safety caps for the spikes. Despite concerns being raise at the time, it was not until an officer was injured and the IPSG reporting the matter to the HSE before remedial action was taken to order the safety caps.

There was a series of accidents during TPAC training which is a technique used to stop vehicles travelling at speed on motorways. It also became apparent that  other members of the force had been permitted to travel in the vehicles as a 'jolly' during this training and there had been several accisents during this training.

The IPSG has since discovered that a civil claim is being made against the force regarding an injury sustained in one of the TPAC training exercises.

It was also apparent that there were no relevant standard policies and procedures for the operation of the driver training unit.

Evidence which would have supported the officer and contained in Performance Development Review's "PDR's" could not be produced by the force.

In what appeared to be an attempt to mislead teh Tribunal,:the force informed the Employment Tribunal that no one in the force received a PDR during the years 2010 and 2011 which was not correct.

For the public, this would be of interest because effectively this would mean that officer's conduct would not be monitored and areas for improvement are recorded in these documents.

It was apparent from the circumstances of this case that the conduct officers in failing to deal with offences in accordance with the proper and appropriate misconduct procedures could be seen to fit the definition of  misconduct in public office.

Members of the public may be wondering why a police officer can ride on a defective tyre twice and not be dealt with in the normal way where he would receive 6 points and up to £5000 in fines. Before deciding not to take any formal action in these matters; a supervising officer sought advice from the force Professional Standrads Branch (PSB).
Humberside Professional Standards Branch had previously been inspected by the HMIC as part of a national baseline inspection and was one of only two forces out of 43 to receive a "poor" grading.

Our recent dealings with Humberside PSB have not inspired confidence or given any indication of significant improvement.

The IPSG on behalf of an officer are seeking answers to why a senior officer has not been disciplined for attempting to avoid a speeding ticket by falsely claiming he was on duty at the time.

Whilst there is a shortage of police officers; the IPSG raised with the Judge at the tribunal that there were officers sitting at the back of the Tribunal who were not giving evidence that day, the force legal services department stated that they were there to listen to the evidence. This was considered to be unethical.

The Judge stated that it was for the Chief Constable to decide who would attend the Tribunal.

Unusually; but it is accepted practice at the Tribunal that witnesses can sit in and listen to others giving evidence before giving their own evidence.

Senior officers attended in uniform which appeared to be designed to influence the Tribunal panel as it is common practice that officers where civilian clothes to such hearings.

We will in the future submit a post specifically relating to police employment tribunals to provide useful information for those considering embarking down that route.

Learning lessons

For officers and staff wishing to raise concerns, you need to make sure that this is documented. In this case there was a lack of documentation to corroborate that protected disclosures were being made.

If it is not recorded, the force will strenuously deny any such conversation took place if questioned at a later stage.

Humberside Police Federation failed to seek legal advice on behalf of the officer who ultimately had to submit his own employment tribunal claim.

If a federation representative is not prepared to properly support an officer, we would recommend looking for another federation representative in the first instance; they are out there but officers should establish exactly what they will and won't do for you in advance so that their case is not prejudiced.

The usual issues that arise are a reluctance to take witness statements, delay in seeking legal advice which can result in claims being out of time and Equality Act Questionnaire's not been submitted in time resulting in Claimant's bering unable to ask the Tribunal to draw an inference from a force failing to respond to a questionnaire or providing evasive answers.
As ususal we will provide feedback to the force and any other relevant organisations such as the HMIC and the IPCC.

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