Chief constable's bid to overturn ruling on PC's racist language dismissed

Portishead HQ of the Avon Fire and Rescue Service and Avon and Somerset Police.

Portishead HQ of the Avon Fire and Rescue Service and Avon and Somerset Police - Credit: Sumner

Avon and Somerset’s police chief said it was “perverse” one of his officers was not sacked after she used “abhorrent” racist language. 

Chief constable Andy Marsh went to the High Court to try to get PC Pauline Archer’s final written warning reviewed after an independent panel found her guilty of gross misconduct. 

Mrs Justice Steyn dismissed his call to review the decision but said it was entirely proper for the chief constable to raise his concerns. 

Chief constable Marsh had said the panel should have heard directly from the colleague who overheard Weston-super-Mare officer PC Archer using a racist term in a private conversation at work about her partner sunbathing. 

In written evidence, Jade Sasani said PC Archer lowered her voice when she made the upsetting comment, before laughing and saying “did I just say that?” 

The officer claimed that she did not want to use another racist term and in the process of correcting herself came out with “something equally horrendous”. 

She told the hearing in December 2019 she could not remember using the slur but accepted it was racist and completely unacceptable.

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A representative described her laughter as nervous disbelief at what she had said, which the panel accepted. 

Panel chair Jane Jones said it was an isolated incident and “not a volcano erupting”, adding: “We think she was struggling to use a word which encapsulated the appearance of someone with dark skin colour and she came out with a term she could not believe she had articulated.” 

Following the hearing PC Archer was required to complete an action plan and returned to her operational role managing sex offenders.

Mrs Justice Steyn said Ms Sasani “did not ‘lose’” and it was wrong to suggest her evidence had been rejected, adding: “The tribunal reached their own view regarding PC Archer’s mindset and intent, a matter on which Ms Sasani gave her impression but could give no direct evidence.”

She went on to say: “He [the chief constable] submits that it was perverse not to dismiss PC Archer in circumstances where she deliberately used the racist term, lied about her lack of recollection and demonstrated a real lack of insight. 

“As I have rejected grounds one to three, the tribunal made no error in determining the appropriate sanction on the basis that PC Archer’s use of the term was an unintentional aberration for which she had accepted full responsibility and in respect of which she had shown real insight.” 

She said the chief constable’s concern to ensure that the use of abhorrent racist language is rooted out of the force and appropriately sanctioned whenever it occurs was entirely proper, and he had acted with “due care and sensitivity”. 

A spokesperson for the force said it accepted the findings of the judicial review. 
“Racism in all its forms will not be tolerated in Avon and Somerset Police,” the spokesperson said. 

“We strongly uphold our values of being inclusive, caring, courageous and learning; and we will always take robust and firm action against anyone in our organisation who is found to hold or express discriminatory views. 

“It’s encouraging that colleagues had the confidence and courage to report their concerns and know that our professional standards department will take them seriously.”

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