Published: February 24, 2012
By ANDREW JOHNSON and PAVAN AMARA
A SENIOR adviser to the Met has called on Scotland Yard’s new Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, to issue a public apology over the treatment of an Islington officer who was subject to racist and homophobic bullying.
Claudia Webbe, who chairs the Independent Advisory Group for Trident, which tackles serious violent crime across London, said she has also written to London Mayor Boris Johnson – who has overall responsibility for policing – calling on him also to issue a formal apology.
A tribunal ruled that Detective Constable Kevin Maxwell, 33, who has 10 years’ service with the Met, was the victim of racial and homophobic bullying and victimisation.
Ms Webbe, who is also Labour councillor for Bunhill ward, said Mr Maxwell had been treated “horrendously” by his employers. Her calls for an apology have been backed by Islington South Labour MP and shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry.
“I find it incredible that a highly intelligent and articulate young man who was doing well should have his career destroyed,” Ms Webbe said.
“He reported racism and homophobia and instead of being protected by his employers they tried to do nothing. He’s been a victim and been ridiculed because of homophobia, and had to take time off because of the illness this caused.
“I don’t see how treating him this way can engender any confidence in the police, particularly in diverse and ethnic minority communities, who are woefully under-represented.”
She continued: “He came to see me as a councillor, and it was heartbreaking listening to what he had been through.
“I have written to the Commissioner asking for a public apology. I cannot understand that in this day and age the Met is still in denial about this. They said after the Stephen Lawrence report that they had changed. I have also written to the Mayor, as he is in charge of policing. A swift public apology is the only way to regain trust in the police.”
She criticised police for failing to take responsibility.
In a statement the Met said: “We are disappointed at the tribunal’s finding in favour of DC Maxwell on nine counts. However, this must be viewed in the context that he made over 100 allegations to the tribunal.
“The tribunal’s decision is 113 pages and this needs now to be given full and careful consideration. We will review the findings, take legal advice and take forward any learning as appropriate.” Ms Webbe said that just one proven case of racism was one too many.
A Met spokeswoman said she could not confirm or deny whether Ms Webbe’s letter to the Commissioner had been received.
No one from Mr Johnson’s office responded to a request for a comment.
Ms Thornberry echoed Ms Webbe’s comments. She added that there was also concern that details about Mr Maxwell’s personal life were leaked to the Sun newspaper. This will now be examined by the Leveson Inquiry into ethics in the media.
“Kevin Maxwell is a constituent of mine and I have been happy to give him a lot of support over the last few years,” she said. “It is appropriate for the Commissioner to apologise. This is the police force in the 21st century. They should apologise. He was right, they were wrong.”
Detective told ‘That’s life’ when he complained about treatment
A GAY police officer was subject to racist and homophobic discrimination, victimisation and harassment by his Met employers, a tribunal found on Tuesday.
Detective Constable Kevin Maxwell, 33, who lives in Islington, was continuously subjected to offensive comments from his superiors and other colleagues at Scotland Yard because he was black and gay, the tribunal found.
When he expressed his concerns to his superior he was told “that’s life”, according to the 113-page decision from the Reading employment tribunal.
The ruling came after five months of hearings, which examined more than 100 allegations against the Met – of which nine were upheld.
Mr Maxwell’s “dignity was violated” as a result of “an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for him”, it added.
In 2009, the 33-year-old took a job working in counter-terrorism at Heathrow airport, but discrimination from colleagues led to him taking time off due to depression.
The tribunal found that, while ill, he suffered further harassment as he was excessively contacted by his line managers and treated in a dismissive manner.
A year later, in 2010, colleagues at the Metropolitan police leaked a distorted account of Mr Maxwell’s claims to The Sun newspaper, although they were not published.
The tribunal heard allegations that Mr Maxwell was told “not to get above his station” when joking with white police officers, deliberately excluded from breaks due to his race, humiliated and criticised in front of other officers and isolated once he revealed his sexuality.
The tribunal also found Mr Maxwell had been used as a “buffer” when dealing with ethnic minority passengers, and was “required to stop black and Asian people for white officers, and then hand them over to white officers”.
In 2009, a detective constable made crude comments against gay men in front of Mr Maxwell, and three months later a superintendent referred to a photo of a man “looking as gay as a gay in a gay tea shop”, which other officers laughed at and found amusing.
In the same year, a superintendent made comments about an Asian officer “being one of those people” in front of Mr Maxwell.
Mr Maxwell asked if other staff were wary of him because he was black and gay, to which his superior responded “no”, but added that staff were wary that Mr Maxwell could get them into trouble.
Later, the same superior attempted to access Mr Maxwell’s personal files and researched him to check if he was a “troublemaker”.
When Mr Maxwell raised further concerns of racial homophobic discrimination, he was reprimanded in an “aggressive tone”.
Simon Cuthbert, of solicitors Russell Jones and Walker, who represented Mr Maxwell throughout his case, said: “Such practices and behaviour have no place in a modern police service.
“This welcome judgment represents a positive step in rooting out any remaining prejudice in the force.”
Claudia Webbe is Mr Maxwell’s local councillor in Bunhill ward and also chairs the Independent Advisory Group for Trident, which tackles serious violent crime across London.
She confirmed that the Met has 42 days to consider an appeal hearing, and said she will be contacting Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe for an apology.