Ex-policewoman wins discrimination payout

A former policewoman has been awarded £55,000 (€69,402) compensation after claiming she was victimised by senior officers, it was revealed today.

Ex-Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) inspector Jacinta Mackie alleged her health suffered after she was sidelined and undermined for making a series of complaints of harassment and discrimination.

These involved inappropriate comments of a sexual nature, remarks about her personal health and disparaging references about other female officers.

Mrs Mackie, from north Down, retired from the police last February after 28 years service and agreed to the compensation settlement without the allegations being heard by an industrial and fair employment tribunal.

Her first complaints were lodged in 2004, but according to the Northern Ireland Equality Commission which backed her case, they were not properly and adequately addressed.

The PSNI has now expressed sincere regret that she genuinely felt she had been discriminated against.

A statement said: “It acknowledges that she experienced a significant injury to her feelings arising from her work situation and the regrettable delay in progressing her complaints. It also accepts that she brought the proceedings in good faith and suffered considerable distress in pursuing her case and that her health was impaired as a result.”

The Commission said Ms Mackie, a Catholic, complained of sex discrimination, harassment and religious/political discrimination; and subsequently victimisation and disability discrimination.

The statement added: “The matters she complained of involved her treatment by senior officers and staff, including allegations of inappropriate comments of a sexual nature, references to her personal health and disparaging references about other female officers.

“She also alleged that she was sidelined and undermined in her professional work within the police service and that, when she complained about these matters, these complaints were not properly addressed in line with policy or normal disciplinary procedures. She alleges that the handling of her grievances, and of the impact all this had upon her health, was inadequate.”

Anne McKernan, the commission’s casework director said there had been an encouraging increase of Catholic women and officers joining the PSNI.

She added: “It is important that there be a firm focus on the measures needed to ensure that today’s PSNI offers a welcoming working environment for all officers, regardless of gender or community background.

“That involves positive leadership, and leadership by example on the part of senior officers which will eliminate any considerations that might undermine or deter women from making a career in the police service.”

“If the progress which is being made in police recruitment is to make the most positive impact on our society, it must also be reflected in the degree to which the service becomes responsive to and respectful of all within its membership.”

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