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Female armed officer sues Police Scotland for sexism

Female armed officer, 43, sues police for sexism after ‘male superior said she shouldn’t be on patrol without a man’

  • Rhona Malone taking Police Scotland to employment tribunal over sexism claims
  • Male superior ‘claimed that female officers should not be on duty without a man’
  • Inspector Keith Warhurst, 44, is also said to have called a colleague a ‘wee lassie’
  • Ms Malone claims ‘an institutionalised sexist attitude to female firearms officers’

A female police officer has launched a discrimination case against her bosses in the firearms unit over claims of ‘institutionalised’ sexism.

Rhona Malone, 43, is taking Police Scotland to an employment tribunal, claiming women in the force were ‘set up to fail’.

One of her male superiors is alleged to have claimed that female firearms officers should not be on duty without a man.

Inspector Keith Warhurst, 44, is also said to have called a colleague a ‘wee lassie’, a hearing in Edinburgh heard yesterday.

Ms Malone’s solicitor, Margaret Gribbon, said her client was seeking ill-health retirement and was a victim of ‘ongoing discrimination’.

Rhona Malone

Rhona Malone, 43, is pictured outside her tribunal hearing in Edinburgh

Rhona Malone, 43, is pictured in her uniform (left) and outside her tribunal hearing in Edinburgh (right)

She said Ms Malone had been treated differently ‘because she was a woman’ – and was not taken seriously when she raised a grievance.

Ms Gribbon told the hearing there was ‘an institutionalised sexist attitude to female firearms officers’ which ‘resulted in them being set up to fail’.

This was particularly the case if they ‘questioned the culture and practices of the unit’.

When Ms Malone, of Torphichen, West Lothian, raised her grievance, it resulted in ‘more discriminatory behaviour’, which was ‘designed to make the claimant take flight [from her role]’.

Parts of a ‘sexist email’ from Inspector – then Sergeant – Warhurst were read out to the tribunal, including him stating that women officers should not be deployed together.

Inspector Keith Warhurst (pictured) is said to have called a colleague a 'wee lassie', a hearing in Edinburgh heard yesterday

Inspector Keith Warhurst (pictured) is said to have called a colleague a ‘wee lassie’, a hearing in Edinburgh heard yesterday

It has been previously reported that this email said: ‘I’m going to plunge in with both feet and open myself up to being accused of being sexist.

‘For operational reasons I don’t want to see 2 x female officers deployed together when there are sufficient male staff on duty. This is based on my experience in the firearms and routine policing environment.

‘Other than the obvious differences in physical capacity, it makes more sense from a search, balance of testosterone perspective. If you want to discuss my door is open.’

Ms Gribbon described this as ‘blatant and overt discrimination from someone who ought to know better’.

She added that Ms Malone had been treated differently after she had launched her grievance case.

At a meeting in February last year, Chief Inspector Linda Russell allegedly ‘played down’ Inspector Warhurst’s email, at a time when other women were ‘starting to ask questions’.

Ms Malone alleges she was ‘laughed at’ by Ms Russell at a grievance hearing in May of last year. A second grievance was launched in June 2018, which Ms Russell was said to have described as ‘petty’.

During a meeting when Ms Malone complained about the ‘sexist culture’ at Police Scotland, Chief Inspector Russell is said to have ‘rolled her eyes’.

Meanwhile, Inspector Warhurst allegedly described a woman who worked for the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner as a ‘wee lassie’ – which Ms Gribbon described as ‘sexist behaviour’.

The tribunal heard that Ms Malone has applied for retirement from the police on ill-health grounds, which would not be resolved until January next year at the earliest.

Yesterday’s evidence emerged during a preliminary hearing before employment judge Jane Porter.

A full tribunal hearing is scheduled for early next year.

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