Monday, 30 November 2015

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Firearms officer whose gun too big for her hands wins sex discrimination case

A firearms officer has won a sex discrimination case against nuclear police chiefs – because her gun was too big for her small hands.

Victoria Wheatley, part of the armed unit which protects the Sellafield atomic complex, could not reach her weapon’s trigger. She struggled with the grip of the pistol she was using – a Glock 17 – and her trainers failed to adjust it while carrying out a test shoot on which her job depends.

A tribunal found the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) guilty of discrimination against Ms Wheatley – and another officer Racheal Giles, who is based at Chapelcross, near Annan – in the provision of suitable firearms and safety equipment.

Both officers, who are described as being “petite in stature” and with “small hands”, asked on several occasions for a smaller and suitable grip on the weapon when they could not reach the trigger, but this did not happen.

Their solicitor, Binder Bansel, of Pattinson & Brewer, said that every officer joining at the rank of constable or sergeant is required to train to recognised standards as an authorised firearms officer and maintain the standard.

A cycle of annual training shoots tests their ability.

“Continued failure at these shoot days results in an unsatisfactory assessment, which could lead to the officer being dismissed,” added the solicitor.

Ms Wheatley and Ms Giles said there were other problems too during the tests, including ill-fitting protection equipment, as the helmets and kneepads were too large which impeded performance.

They also argued that a wooden barricade which was used as a resting place for the firearm was also too large but the tribunal found there was no justification for this.

The women raised their concerns on “a regular basis” but were often dismissed, with no “adequate consideration”, the tribunal heard.

CNC chiefs, however, plan to appeal the tribunal decision.

A spokesman said: “The judgement has been passed and the CNC has lost on the grounds of indirect sex discrimination, however any claims of victimisation were unanimously dismissed.

“The CNC are licensed by the College of Policing for firearms training and we have shared this judgement with them in the context of the national firearms picture.

“As a result of what was discussed in this case, the CNC can also state it will be conducting an equality impact assessment.

“This is to ensure that the CNC remains committed to providing the right training and equipment, together with a commitment to equal opportunities.”

Ms Wheatley and Ms Giles are members of the Civil Nuclear Police Federation, which supported the claim.

After the judgement, chief executive Nigel Dennis said he was pleased with the outcome, adding he hoped the constabulary would remove the “disadvantage” and ensure all officers had a fair opportunity.


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