EVERY fire station in England is riddled with bullying, harassment and discrimination: Major report warns of ‘toxic’ culture where ‘deeply troubling’ behaviour is excused as ‘banter’ – including use of the ‘n-word’ and ‘jokes about rape’
- Every fire station in England riddled with bullying and harassment, report warns
- Hundreds of firefighters have said they have been the victim of discrimination
Every fire station in the country is riddled with bullying, harassment and discrimination, a major report found yesterday.
It found a ‘boys’ club’ where racism, homophobia and sexism is excused as ‘banter’.
His Majesty’s Inspector of Fire & Rescue Services Roy Wilsher warned that there may be ‘predators’ lurking in the fire service as he said the toxic culture uncovered in the review was ‘just the tip of the iceberg’.
The watchdog found ‘deeply troubling’ evidence of bullying and harassment in services across England, with hundreds of firefighters saying they have fallen victim to discrimination.
Now Mr Wilsher is calling for background checks on all firefighters and staff – which are currently not a legal obligation.
(Stock Image) A watchdog found ‘deeply troubling’ evidence of bullying and harassment in fire services across England
The bombshell report comes after predatory behaviour in the police has come under the spotlight following the crimes of Scotland Yard officers such as Sarah Everard’s killer Wayne Couzens and serial rapist David Carrick.
When asked whether there were similar ‘predators’ in the fire service, Mr Wilsher said: ‘The possibility is there, yes.’
Worryingly, he said the watchdog did not know how many firefighters had been convicted of serious offences, despite one in ten misconduct reports leading to ‘police involvement’.
In around one in eight cases, those accused were allowed to quietly retire or resign.
Among the sickening behaviour uncovered by inspectors, a senior officer referred to a black colleague using the ‘n-word’ and then tried to excuse it as just ‘having a laugh’.
Two male firefighters joked with a female colleague that they were ‘going to rape her’ before proceeding to ‘act out the rape together’, while inspectors found homophobic abuse scrawled on a locker.
The report found a perception that women were appointed due to their gender rather than on merit, with one firefighter saying: ‘If you menstruate or have a vagina, you’re more likely to get the job.’
In a quarter of 44 fire and rescue services in England, inspectors found evidence of racism, sexism and homophobia and a culture where staff did not feel confident to challenge bullying.
In a survey of 11,486 staff, 17 per cent (1,920) said they had experienced discrimination in the past year.
Mr Wilsher said he was ‘shocked and appalled’ by the report. He told ITV News yesterday: ‘I believe this is a watershed moment. It is time for this behaviour to stop.’
(Stock Image) In a quarter of 44 fire and rescue services in England, inspectors found evidence of racism, sexism and homophobia
When asked whether the public was safe in the hands of every firefighter, he said: ‘I think I can guarantee they’re safe in the hands of the vast majority of firefighters in this service. I’d like to say 100 per cent but I can’t sit here and guarantee that at this moment.’
The London Fire Brigade (LFB) and Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service were identified as the worst, with both entering special measures last year.
In November a report found female firefighters had been groped, beaten and had their helmets filled with urine in the LFB.
Male firefighters would go through women’s drawers looking for underwear and sex toys during home safety visits.
Nazir Afzal, the former chief prosecutor who conducted the review, labelled the brigade ‘institutionally misogynist and racist’ after incidents including a noose being put over the locker of a black firefighter and a Muslim colleague having bacon stuffed in his pockets.
One member of staff said: ‘It’s now reached a point with me that I tell my female friends not to let male firefighters in the house.
‘I would advise any single woman not to let them in to check smoke alarms.’ The latest report found staff are afraid to speak up, saying it was ‘career suicide’ to raise complaints in ‘an old boys’ club’.
In one instance, a firefighter accused of making a racist comment threatened to make the complainant’s ‘life hell’.
Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack said: ‘The failure to address discrimination and harassment in the service goes right to the top.
Some fire service leaders are part of the problem, and have systematically failed to address discrimination, harassment and bullying in the service.’
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