A former Police Scotland armed response officer who exposed the “ugly and rampant culture of sexism and misogyny” within the firearms department has been awarded a settlement of almost £1 million by the force.
Former constable Rhona Malone won a victimisation claim against Police Scotland following an employment tribunal last year.
She began grievance action after a senior police officer said he did not want to see two female armed officers deployed together when there were sufficient male staff on duty.
The employment tribunal heard that in an email on January 10, 2018, which Ms Malone was copied into, he said this “makes more sense from a search, balance of testosterone perspective”.
However the order was never implemented as another senior officer told supervisory staff that the email did not represent the views of senior management and was not to be actioned.
The tribunal accepted evidence that there was an “absolute boys club” culture within the armed response vehicle team.
In its judgment in October last year, the employment tribunal upheld Ms Malone’s claims of victimisation, however her claim of direct discrimination was dismissed.
A joint statement from Police Scotland and Ms Malone said a settlement, including a payment of £947,909.07, has now been agreed.
Ms Malone’s solicitor Margaret Gribbon, of Bridge Employment Solicitors in Glasgow, said: “Former Pc Malone is relieved that this long, costly, and stressful litigation is at an end.
“She and those police officers who gave evidence on her behalf performed a vital public service exposing the ugly and rampant culture of sexism and misogyny from within Police Scotland’s firearms department.
“This culture was not confined to one department since the employment tribunal found that when former Pc Malone raised her complaints of sexism and discrimination, she was victimised by staff and police officers of various ranks across multiple Police Scotland departments.
“Former Pc Malone’s case must serve as a watershed for Police Scotland. Her main motivation in pursuing this case was always to publicly hold Police Scotland to account and to act as a catalyst for change.
“She welcomes the chief constable’s publicly stated commitment to leading change and, in his words, taking ‘practical, aggressive and visible action’.
“For former Pc Malone that must, as a bare minimum, start with Police Scotland pledging to publicise the findings and recommendations of the ongoing PSNI’s review along with the steps it intends taking to tackle sexism and misogyny from within its ranks.”
Ms Malone transferred to the post of authorised firearms officer based in Edinburgh, Fettes Team 1, in October 2016 and was absent from duties with work-related stress from June 24, 2018 until her retirement on April 2, 2020.
Ms Gribbon said her client had a promising police career prematurely ended and that other female armed firearms officers were being “driven out of firearms because of the sexist culture”.
The agreed statement issued on behalf of Police Scotland and Ms Malone said: “The chief constable has provided a personal apology to Ms Malone for the serious issues highlighted in the employment tribunal judgment, including Police Scotland’s poor response when a dedicated and promising officer raised legitimate concerns.
“The chief constable also emphasised his personal commitment to leading change in policing in Scotland which drives equality and inclusion to improve the experiences of all women, including our own officers and staff. The chief constable reiterates this apology and commitment.
“In the days after the judgment was issued, the chief constable made a commitment to commission an external police service to carry out an independent review of the employment tribunal decision and make any recommendations which require action by Police Scotland whether they relate to performance, conduct, or culture.
“The Police Service of Northern Ireland is finalising that work.”