GOVERNMENT REVERSES SEX DISCRIMINATION LOOPHOLE
1. The government has published an amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act which closes an existing loophole.
2. Since a court decision in 2000, neither officers nor the chief constables of police forces have not been liable for discrimination or harassment committed by one police officer against another.
3. This means that a woman police constable who is sexually harassed could not bring a sex discrimination claim against the officer who was harassing her, nor against the police force (her employer).
4. This loophole was caused by poor legal drafting when the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 was passed in 1975, but was not spotted until 2000 in the case of Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police v Liversidge
5. The government has, today, issued a statutory instrument which amends the relevant provisions of the Sex Discrimination Act and closes the loophole.
6. Accordingly, as of Saturday 19th July 2003 (when the amendment comes into force), police officers will be able to claim for sexual harassment against their employers.
7. Daniel Barnett, barrister at 2 Gray's Inn Square Chambers, comments: "This is an overdue and necessary change in the law. Hundreds of police constables have had to tolerate a culture of harassment and discrimination, with no legal remedy. No other country would tolerate this lack of protection for its police".
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (Amendment) Regulations 2003 were published today and come into force on 19th July 2003.
2. The case in which the courts decided that police officers were not covered by the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 was Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police v Liversidge (2000).
3. Mrs Cheryldeen Liversidge was a black woman police constable in the Bedfordshire Police. She brought a race discrimination claim against the Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police and a fellow constable, PC Fitzgibbon. She alleged that PC Fitzgibbon had referred to her as a "Papa Mike" or "PM", a derogatory term meaning "Porch Monkey" used in some parts of America to refer to a negro woman.
4. Her claims against the Chief Constable included a claim that he was vicariously liable as employer for PC Fitzgibbon's alleged wrongdoing. She also alleged that the investigation by the police into her complaint had been inadequate and that disciplinary charges brought against her constituted sex discrimination and/or victimisation for which the Chief Constable was responsible. She further alleged that the Chief Constable did not investigate her complaint with the same energy, commitment and competence compared with the way PC Fitzgibbon's counter allegations had been investigated.
5. The Employment Appeal Tribunal (and, in 2002, the Court of Appeal) held that the discrimination statutes, through a drafting error, did not cover acts of discrimination by one police officer against another.
6. The position was reversed for race discrimination in the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, so that police forces were liable for race discrimination by one officer against another. However, no amendment was made at the time for sex discrimination, and so police officers have been unprotected for the last three years.