WHEN a photograph of a civil servant bound and gagged in her workplace first emerged in 2018, it provoked widespread outrage and condemnation throughout Scotland and beyond.

The image of DeeAnn Fitzpatrick tied up with parcel tape in what she claimed was a warning for speaking out against abuse led many to offer her their support and others to attack the men she blamed for it.

Rhoda Grant MSP, who had long supported Ms Fitzpatrick, told of her plight in Parliament and said plainly that she had been photographed in such a way “to humiliate and degrade her because she spoke out about inappropriate behaviour”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also said she was “absolutely horrified” by the photograph and instructed a full review of the case.

The image, which came at the peak of the #MeToo movement, also attracted attention in other parts of the world and was seen as the epitome of what the campaign was calling out.

However, in October 2019, evidence emerged that the circumstances of the photograph may not have been as they first appeared.

Secret dossier

A DOSSIER seen by The Herald on Sunday revealed that the Canadian national was facing disciplinary action for making “false statements” about the chair incident and about her colleagues.

She was said to have lied about the timing of the event – claiming it was in December 2010 when digital evidence showed the photograph was taken in 2009.

Crucially, the 2009 date was more than a year before she blew the whistle on the events she claimed led to her being taped up. The 52-year-old, from Caithness, was eventually sacked and last year launched an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal, seeking reinstatement with the Government body and £500,000 in compensation.

However, this week Judge Alexander Kemp dismissed her case and made it clear that he, too, believed she had been dishonest about the timing of the incident and the reasons behind it.

In his written judgment on the case, he concluded that the fishery officer “had been dishonest and not simply mistaken” about what happened.

Judge Kemp added: “She maintained her position as to its date, and that position is, we concluded, wrong.

“It follows from that that the suggestion that it was a form of retaliation for her ‘blowing the whistle’, as she put it, cannot be right.”


‘Not genuine’

THE tribunal also found that emails she had presented to investigators and to the BBC, which appeared to show a manager saying the incident was “the boys just being boys”, were also “not genuine”.

Despite the findings, Ms Fitzpatrick is still adamant that she was “not dishonest about anything”.

As she told The Herald about her “extreme disappointment” in the judgment, she said: “I have no reason to lie about when and what happened to me.”

Rhoda Grant has also reiterated her support of Ms Fitzpatrick, saying she does not believe she lied and describing the tribunal decision as a miscarriage of justice.

Evidence heard during the tribunal revealed that while Ms Fitzpatrick had various opportunities to raise the chair incident with managers or HR professionals, the first time she did so was “fleetingly” when she was facing another unrelated disciplinary in 2012.

It was not mentioned again until she lodged an employment tribunal in 2017, alleging harassment.

While it was not part of her original claim in that case, she mentioned the incident while giving evidence and it received widespread media attention, with the image later being published widely in the press and on social media.

This prompted a backlash against the men involved – Reid Anderson and Jody Paske – some of which Judge Kemp said was “so dreadful” it amounted to criminal conduct.

Online trolling

THE dossier which was seen by The Herald on Sunday back in 2019 contained an impact statement from Mr Anderson which revealed that he received an extensive amount of abuse and trolling after he was named.

Then a new father, he said he feared telling people his name and did not leave the house for days on end.

“I was obsessed with what people were saying about me,” he wrote. “I wasn’t eating or sleeping.

“I was receiving threats from trolls, random people. On social media, Facebook. Read some of them obsessively.”

Both Mr Anderson and Mr Paske were also investigated by the police, but no action was taken against them.

Within Marine Scotland, the incident was deemed to be “high jinks” and part of a pranking culture which Ms Fitzpatrick willingly took part in.

However, Judge Kemp made it clear in Monday’s judgment that, prank or not, he was not impressed with what happened to the officer that day and said the photograph still had “elements that are sinister”.

‘High jinks’?

HE added: “The photograph does not look like high jinks as that term is normally understood. High jinks is not normally a term one would expect to be used for events at a Government office charged with enforcing the law.

“It is a term that has dangers. It can cover, on the one hand, conduct in which every participant plays an equal part and enjoys and, on the other hand, conduct which is perceived by the recipient to be discriminatory, and is in fact harassment.”

The tribunal also fired a warning shot to Marine Scotland over the “kindergarten” culture within its Scrabster office and its handling of the whole affair.

Workers allegedly put ice down each other’s clothes, taped someone who had fallen asleep to his chair, taped the beard of another worker, and modified a pen into a “peashooter”.

Judge Kemp said that HR appeared, in part, to “prejudge” Ms Fitzpatrick’s case and dismissed her other harassment claims because they uncovered lies about the chair incident.

The judgment stated: “The claimant had the perception that she had been the victim of a bullying culture for a very long period.

“While we have made the findings that we have, not all that she said in evidence was, we considered, unreliable or untrue.

“Some of the behaviours at the office were entirely wrong.

“It was not a kindergarten, but a Government office charged with enforcing the law.

“It was, at least for a material period, dysfunctional, given the evidence of how those working there conducted themselves and not all steps that were recommended to be taken to remedy that were.”

‘Complex case’

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “This has been a lengthy and complex case. We note the conclusion of this process and the Employment Tribunal’s dismissal of the claim.

 “We are determined to ensure that Scottish Government employees are treated with dignity and respect, our workplaces are free from all forms of discrimination or harassment, and colleagues at all levels feel empowered to raise concerns and have confidence that appropriate action will be taken.

“The organisation will reflect carefully on the comments in the judgment and use the learning to inform policy and practice.

 “Our annual People Survey allows us to monitor employee experience of bullying and harassment.

“We have recently updated our standards of behaviour and work is under way to refresh our grievance policy and procedure which is due to launch next month.”