Two senior female police officers, who were accused of making false statements against a former Wigan inspector, have been awarded thousands of pounds at an employment tribunal.
Supt Jane Higham and former Det Insp Laura Escott have won £42,500 in total, following claims of sex discrimination against GMP’s Chief Constable.
The women took the force to a tribunal claiming that they were treated unfairly and subject to gross misconduct charges because of their gender.
The two officers, who worked within the force’s professional standards board (PSB), launched a claim after they were disciplined for making “false” allegations against Inspector Scott Winters, who was said to have attacked a female officer in the 90s while working in Tyldesley.
Mr Winters, who has worked in Wigan, Leigh and Tyldesley, took GMP to a tribunal back in 2015 accusing the force of racial discrimination.
It was in relation to this tribunal that Supt Higham and Det Insp Escott gave “protected disclosures” on behalf of GMP, saying that in the late 90s, Mr Winters had attacked a young female officer, grabbing her by the throat and threatening to break her legs.
Mr Winters had taken GMP to a tribunal claiming that he was being racially discriminated against because he reprimanded a white officer for calling one of his senior colleagues by his first name.
The case was eventually settled out of court.
Following this, both women were referred to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) after Mr Winters said that they gave evidence which was “untrue, never happened, was never reported and was not investigated”. But soon after, GMP declined a request to waive legal professional privilege which meant that the IOPC could not access essential evidence for the investigation. As such, the decision was taken that GMP should carry out a local investigation.
However, evidence submitted to the investigation by Det Ch Insp Flindle showed that complaints had been made against Mr Winters back in 1998.
The report showed that the female officer had also made allegations of bullying against Mr Winters which had been corroborated by a “number of officers”.
The tribunal document states: “It (the report) also referred to a move of Mr Winters from Leigh to Wigan and a record as a result of an internal investigation on 2 April 1999 it had apparently been found Mr Winters was responsible for perpetrating rumours within his shift which caused distress to fellow officers – the rumours being that he had suggested in crude terms that two married officers were having an affair and sexual intercourse at work and that two other female officers were engaged in a lesbian relationship.”
During the investigation, both women were put on restricted duties for eight months, a move that the employment tribunal panel ruled was “detrimental” to both of them.
Senior GMP officers said that this was just a “blanket” decision, however the panel found that the same disciplinary action had not been taken against four male officers in similar circumstances.
The tribunal said: “We conclude that the claimants have established that they were treated less favourably than male officers would have been in materially comparable circumstances.”
DI Escott, who was awarded £30,000 for “injury to feelings” said that the women were “hung out to dry”.
She expressed the view that as females, they were easier to manage than Mr Winters and were “expendable” to GMP.
She said that she had experienced difficulty sleeping and that she had reduced her hours. The following months she was signed off with stress.
Supt Higham, who has since been promoted, was awarded £12,500. She said that the actions of senior officers had been “vindictive” and “highly damaging” to both her’s and DI Escott’s well-being. The women believed they had been made to look “racist, dishonest and corrupt”.
A GMP spokesperson said: “We are aware of the judgment and we are currently considering its content. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”