Review ordered after tribunal finds ‘sexist culture’ in Scotland’s armed police

An independent review has been ordered after a tribunal found evidence of a “sexist culture” in Scotland’s armed policing.

The case was brought by former officer Rhona Malone against Police Scotland alleging sex discrimination and victimisation.

Her claim of victimisation succeeded, but the discrimination claim was dismissed. The tribunal heard that the force had a “horrific” workplace culture and was an “absolute boys’ club”.

Chief constable Iain Livingstone said an independent force would review the judgment over “legitimate concern”.

In an update to staff, he said: “The appalling murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer has brought an intense, critical spotlight on to policing in the UK and on to misogyny and violence against women and girls.

“The issues raised at a recent employment tribunal in relation to a former colleague have added to this scrutiny in Scotland.

“Misogyny, sexism and discrimination of any kind are deplorable. They should have no place in society and no place in policing. It is vital that, individually and as an organisation, we challenge our own and each other’s behaviours in relation to misogynistic attitudes and actions.”

Livingstone added: “We have a duty and an opportunity to lead a change which improves the experiences of all women, including our own officers and staff. This starts with enabling and supporting those who speak up, who have a right to be heard without fear of detriment or victimisation.”

The tribunal, which ended this week, heard evidence of an email which advised that two female firearms officers should not be deployed together when there were sufficient male staff on duty.

It found Malone was an “entirely credible and reliable witness”. However, evidence given by her former superior officer, Insp Keith Warhurst, was “contradictory, confusing and ultimately incredible”.

The judgment added: “He repeatedly failed to give a clear answer to questions put to him.” It accepted that there was evidence of a sexist culture in Malone’s armed response vehicles unit in the east of Scotland.

Malone told the Guardian this week that she had since been approached by many other female officers who had faced similar experiences. “The unconscious bias in Police Scotland is so deep that they don’t even realise. Misogynist banter is nurtured and no one steps in to say this is wrong. So that poisonous culture is just going to grow.”

The ruling comes as police forces in England and Wales face scrutiny after Wayne Couzens was jailed for a whole life-term after kidnapping, raping and murdering Sarah Everard in March.

On the day of his sentencing, former Metropolitan police chief superintendent Parm Sandhu said the force was “very sexist and misogynistic”.

She told BBC Radio 4’s World at One that she had been “vilified” after reporting an incident involving a male colleague.

“What happens is that male police officers will then close ranks and the fear that most women police officers have got is that when you are calling for help, you press that emergency button or your radio, they’re not going to turn up and you’re going to get kicked in in the street.

“So you have got to be very careful which battles you can fight and which ones you can actually win.”

An inquiry has been launched by the home secretary into “systematic failures” that allowed Couzens to be a police officer. He had reportedly been nicknamed “The Rapist” by colleagues and exposed himself twice.

However, it has been criticised for not being a statutory inquiry, which would have the legal power to compel witnesses to testify or disclose documents.

Police Scotland has apologised unreservedly to Malone and said it would address the issues “as a matter of urgency”.

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