Worthingtons Solicitors

Former senior female police officer awarded £31,000 compensation in a whistleblowing and sex discrimination case against the PSNI

Emma Bond -v- Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland 21722/21IT

Emma Bond, former PSNI Chief Superintendent, and first female Commander of Derry City & Strabane District, brought claims of sex discrimination and whistleblowing detriment before the Industrial Tribunal in March 2021.

Ms Bond contended that in April 2020, she had been informed that dozens of officers failed to report for duty in the district over a two-week period, while sitting at home getting paid. Having concluded that this was a potential critical incident requiring immediate action, Ms Bond raised potential breaches of the Code of Ethics, breaches of officers’ legal duties under section 32 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 (as amended), and potential criminal offences, and immediately reported the matter to her superiors.

Despite the matter being discussed at a number of urgent meetings and being escalated to the Professional Standards Committee, disciplinary notices against the officers were halted by the then-Chief Constable, Simon Byrne, following legal advice.

Ms Bond, having confronted the officers under her command about the matter on 28 April 2020, in what was later referred to as “a rollicking”, quickly became the target for complaints from several male officers; and a disciplinary notice for gross misconduct was issued against her on 15 May 2020.

Whilst continuing to challenge the validity of the disciplinary notice, Ms Bond was notified on 15 September 2020 that PSD did not find the allegations against her to amount to gross misconduct, or even misconduct, and the disciplinary notice was rescinded. Regardless of this finding, Ms Bond was transferred to a role in the Police Training College, being told that it was not a demotion but for her own welfare, notwithstanding this being against her wishes. Ms Bond declared that the issuing of the notice for gross misconduct and the transfer away from her substantive post were detriments suffered by her for blowing the whistle.

The case was heard in January, April and October 2023 with former Chief Constable Simon Byrne giving evidence. During cross examination the Tribunal heard that in May 2020, Ms Bond sent a text to the then PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne stating she could not “reconcile frontline people deliberately sitting at home when they know they should be at work“.

She also told Mr Byrne that during the controversy, someone had said “being in the woman’s thing has gone to her head”.

She added “I do wonder if a male colleague had been in my shoes would they be the subject of such commentary and be questioned on the validity of them exercising their role as a commander.”

The tribunal heard that after that exchange, Mr Byrne described in his journal having received “an emotional text about issues on District” and had counselled Ms Bond regarding a need for “resilience“.

In November 2023, the Industrial Tribunal unanimously ruled in Ms Bond’s favour. In its published findings, it stated her claims of whistleblowing detriment and discrimination on the basis of her gender were “well-founded”.

The Judgment reads: “In assessing the injury to the claimant’s feelings caused by the respondent’s conduct, the tribunal has taken into account the claimant’s own circumstances as a dedicated, high-ranking and long serving police officer with a distinguished career, the duration of the detriment sustained, which extended over a number of months, and impact on the claimant of the high handed manner in which the respondent organisation dealt with her, once the complaints were made…The tribunal in fixing the amount of the global award has also taken into account that the claimant had been subjected to both detriment for public interest disclosure and sex discrimination”.

In response to the Judgment, the newly appointed Chief Constable, Jon Boutcher stated that ‘lessons would be learned’ and recognised that a gender imbalance among senior officers needs to be addressed.

Ms Bond stated that she was pleased with the findings of the Tribunal.

Full statement can be viewed here: https://www.worthingtonslaw.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/0172700001-Emma-Bond-Press-Statement-.pdf.pdf

The full Judgment can be viewed below:


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