Met Police whistleblower ‘victim-blamed’ after exposing ‘sexist’ WhatsApp chat

Derogatory messages calling women ‘slags’ were among the many offensive messages sent in a group-chat of Met officers, a whistleblower has claimed.

A Met Detective Superintendent with 32 years experience blew the whistle on ‘sexist’ messages sent by male colleagues in a WhatsApp group, a tribunal heard, and was subsequently not offered a job – two things she claims are linked.

Paige Kimberley, 59, also claims she was paid significantly less than male colleagues, even those with less experience, when she moved into a digital role in the force.

Read more: Policing chief says Met unfairly ‘vilified’ after elderly Black man hospitalised

The messages and images, described as “sexually explicit and derogatory”, came to light at a tribunal in which Ms Kimberley is suing the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis for £41,000.

Ms Kimberley is claiming sex discrimination and discrimination for whistleblowing.

The Met Police denies the claims.

She also claimed a job offer was rescinded when she blew the whistle and told senior colleagues about the work WhatsApp chat – but withdrew this claim on the second day of the hearing.

After leaving the digital team, Ms Kimberley said she began to see sexually explicit and derogatory messages about women in a work group-chat sent by former and serving police officers.

She said they were “aggressive and inappropriate messages, photographs and videos, including a graphic image of a diseased vagina, messages calling women slags and disclosing very misogynistic and sexist attitudes towards women.”

Images of obese women were sent and a meme of scantily-clad women with the caption: “Three things that don’t get cold in winter. Polar bears, penguins and slags.”

Other messages refer to watching porn, the size of colleagues’ penises, anal sex and the “average size of a vagina”.

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She was ‘paid less’ than ex-chef with no policing service experience

Ms Kimberley says she was also paid less than the men in her team despite her experience and receiving seven commendations for policing work, including planning security of the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Ms Kimberley was involved in coordinating crime and intelligence for events, including the Presidential visit, Royal wedding and London Riots, the tribunal heard.

She told the London Employment Tribunal: “The only reason I can see for the substantial disparity in pay was my sex.

“I spent 32 years of my life working for the Respondent and had a distinguished career. I have been proud to have served as I have.

“The rejection of my complaints, the cover-ups, the denials, and the spinning of completely fabricated justifications for my treatment have been deeply troubling and have caused me sleepless nights and a good deal of anguish when all I sought to do was to get the Respondent to ensure that it upheld its own standards and the standards that taxpayers have a right to expect from the police.”

The tribunal heard Ms Kimberley joined the Met in 1981 as a police officer and rose through the ranks before retiring in 2013.

She was asked to return and offered £350 a day as an Implementation Manager for the Met’s Digital Policing strategy, and began in April 2018.

Each manager carried out the same role but within a different borough, but she was “astonished” to find some of her colleagues were being paid “between £500 and £565 per day”.

One such colleague was a former chef with no police service experience, she told the tribunal.

She said she raised the unequal pay issue at a meeting with manager Tatiana Southon in November 2018 – but was told it was policy not to increase the rate mid-contract.

She resigned in February 2019 due to unrelated family issues, the tribunal heard.

Group-chat created ‘hostile’ environment

Ms Kimberley said a WhatsApp group called “Old-timers plus Dave” contained colleagues Matthew Lawrence, Keith Blundy, Darren Bradley and PC David Searle when she left.

She said inappropriate messages were being sent in the group around 20 times a day after she left the team.

She said: “I was shocked and disappointed by the content of these messages; both Mr Lawrence and Mr Blundy are retired police officers and Mr Searle still serves as a police officer.”

She said she was asked to return to the team by Ms Southon in September 2019, and was offered only £400.

She said: “The Respondent was therefore offering me pay of £165 per day less than my male predecessor, despite the fact I would be fulfilling the exact same role, possessed greater skills and had held greater posts of responsibility.”

Ms Kimberley said she told Ms Southon about the WhatsApp group, as she felt it had created a “hostile and offensive environment” and it was in the public interest.

The force has not pursued any disciplinary measures or apologised to her, she claims.

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She added: “The Respondent has shown no willingness to move with the society it purports to serve or feels that it can be held accountable.

“Every avenue I have tried to raise concerns about the discriminatory and disturbing communications in the WhatsApp group have either been excused or stonewalled.”

Ms Kimberley said she wrote to Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball to complain about her treatment and was referred to the Met’s Discrimination Investigation Unit.

She said she received a letter around a month later asking why she had not left the WhatsApp group – which she says shows an attitude of victim-blaming in the Met.

Ms Kimberley said: “I believe this discloses the Respondent’s preferred attitude towards, and strategy for, dealing with sex harassment in the workplace; simply ignore it and brush it under the carpet and by not turning away the victim is impliedly blamed.

“The Respondent’s reaction and lack of action in relation to this show that it is failing to adhere to its own purported values of caring for each other, supporting victims and being a responsible, exemplary and ethical organisation.”

The hearing continues.

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