A potential police recruit who was rejected from a force because he is white and heterosexual has said he believes many other men will have been discriminated against.
An employment tribunal found Cheshire Police was guilty of discrimination against Matthew Furlong, 25, on the grounds of sexual orientation, race and sex after his application to join the force in 2017 was unsuccessful.
Mr Furlong said: “It has completely shattered my confidence in the police force recruitment system.
“The irony of the whole thing is that throughout the whole process I was required to demonstrate my honesty and integrity and they have completely undermined that.
“Had I lied on my interview form and said I was bisexual, for instance, there’s a strong possibility I would be working for Cheshire Police now based on a lie.”
Mr Furlong, whose father has served for Cheshire Police for more than 20 years, said he had been on “cloud nine” after his interview, when he was told he “couldn’t have done more”, but he later learnt he had lost out to other candidates.
He said: “I am not the only person who has been affected by this.
“There are many other white heterosexual males who undoubtedly left the whole interview process with the impression that they weren’t good enough when in fact many were.
“In addition, I worry for the candidates who have been appointed as they may question whether they were appointed based on merit or whether they simply had a particular protected characteristic.”
He said he was no longer sure if he wanted to achieve his lifelong ambition of joining the police force.
He said: “I am delighted that the tribunal found in my favour and I hope it will prevent the same thing from happening again, but I don’t know what I want to do now.
“If I applied again and did get in I would worry that the same issues could arise if I went for a promotion. It has certainly made it very difficult for me to continue down that path.”
The former Lancaster University student won his case after a tribunal in Liverpool heard four days of evidence.
His lawyers say it is the first reported case of its kind in the UK, after the employment tribunal ruled that Cheshire Constabulary used positive action – where employers take steps to recruit certain groups of people with different characteristics – but in a discriminatory way.
Jennifer Ainscough, an employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said: “This is an incredibly important ruling and something all employers need to be aware of in the future when using positive action.
“They must be prepared to show that their recruitment process is lawful or risk leaving themselves open to similar claims, in which this case would almost certainly be relied upon.”
The tribunal ruled that while positive action can be used to boost diversity, it should only be applied to distinguish between candidates who were all equally well qualified for a role.
Cheshire Police was among a number of forces criticised in 2015 for having no black officers, but has since taken steps to improve opportunities for those with protected characteristics relating to BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) gender, sexual orientation and disability.
The case has been adjourned until later this year for a remedy hearing to determine the amount of compensation to be awarded.
A spokesman for Cheshire Police said: “We have been notified of the outcome of the tribunal and will review the findings over the coming days.”