A firearms officer has won a claim for victimisation against Police Scotland after a tribunal found evidence of a "sexist culture" within the armed response unit she was assigned to.

Former officer Rhona Malone raised the tribunal against Police Scotland alleging sex discrimination and victimisation. 

The tribunal has now published its decision — finding the unit's work environment "horrific" and an "absolute boys club".

It also found that Ms Malone was an "entirely credible and reliable witness", but the evidence of her former superior, Insp Keith Warhurst, was "contradictory, confusing and ultimately incredible".

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Insp Warhurst sent an email in January 2018 saying two female firearms officers should not be deployed together when there were sufficient male staff on duty, because this affected the "balance of testosterone". 

Other incidents highlighted included Insp Warhurst saying a colleague was going to "end up F***** that", in reference to a female officer. 

The Herald:

Firearms officers (stock pic) 

The tribunal also heard the senior firearms officer posted topless images of women to a work Whatsapp group, though he denied doing this. 

Another former colleague of Ms Malone also overheard Insp Warhust calling one of the female Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) agents "a wee lassie".

Ms Malone had worked as a police officer for seven years before becoming an authorised firearms officer (AFO) in Police Scotland's ARV team in 2016.

She was based in Edinburgh, Fettes Team 1, in October 2016, where she was one of two women in a team of 12 AFOs. Of 60 AFOs in Edinburgh's ARV division, four were women.

In its judgement, the tribunal found a former colleague of Ms Malone was told by the chief firearms instructor that women should not become AFOs "because they menstruated and that affected their temperament".

The tribunal upheld Ms Malone's claim of victimisation, but dismissed her claim of discrimination as Insp Warhurst's email requiring female officers to not be deployed together was not implemented.  

The tribunal said that if it had, it would have been viewed as "inherently discriminatory".

However the tribunal did accept Ms Malone's claims of victimisation due to incidents including a threat of withdrawing her firearms authority, a suggestion that she could be transferred to Stirling, handling of grievances and a failure to investigate complaints.

The Herald:


Rhona Malone 

The threat relating to the withdrawal of her firearms authority came after a "heated meeting" with Insp Warhurst and another senior officer where Ms Malone was told she was becoming "frustrated and upset". No similar threat was made to Insp Warhurst.

Police Scotland has previously denied claims it has a culture of sexism.

Ms Malone told BBC Scotland she was "extremely emotional and phenomenally grateful".

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Her solicitor, Margaret Gibbon, described the employment tribunal's judgement as "damning".

"The employment tribunal's findings lay bare the misogynistic attitudes and culture within armed policing and the hostile treatment police officers face when they try to call it out," she added.

"Of equal concern is the employment tribunal's findings that it did not consider credible much of the evidence it heard from Police Scotland's witnesses, including testimony from high-ranking police officers and senior members of staff.

"The serious issues this judgement brings to light need to be urgently addressed by Police Scotland".