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‘I won £430k pay-out but toxic police culture has cost me my dream career’: Female officers say bullying still rife within ‘sexist’ force

© SYSTEMGemma MacRae
Gemma MacRae

A female police officer bullied out of her job says her £430,000 award means little after losing the career she loved.

And brave Gemma MacRae, who was sexually assaulted by an officer and subjected to bullying by others known as the “Moray Boys’ Club”, is angry that other women who stood up and complained have either been sidelined or have left Police Scotland.

Gemma, who was sent a funeral cross after reporting her former partner, also a police officer, for abusing her, was tricked by colleagues into getting into a police vehicle and was then dumped in an isolated forest late at night as “payback”.

She said: “Joining the police had been my childhood dream, but within six months of graduating from Tulliallan Police College and my probationary period, I was out.

“My dreams lay in tatters and my career was over.

“I’ve spent the last seven years fighting to have my voice heard after speaking out against the appalling bullying, misogyny and sexism which is still sickeningly prevalent, despite what Police Scotland say.

“I’m in despair because despite my case and that of other brave women like Rhona Malone and Karen Harper, nothing has changed within the force.”

‘Nothing has changed. Nothing has been learned’

While dedicated firearms officer Malone was awarded £1 million after winning a bullying claim, officer Karen Harper said trying to fight her own bullying claim was like “taking on the Mafia”.

Gemma said: “Other women and those officers who refuse to be part of the awful culture which still exists within Police Scotland have been pushed aside or out the door while bullies have been rewarded with promotions. Nothing has changed. Nothing has been learned.”

A total of seven bullies were named by Gemma and others brave enough to come forward to report their aggressive antics after she spoke out. Gemma was left suffering nightmares and realised she no longer “felt safe” with her colleagues.

The Moray Boys’ Club were accused of locking a heavily pregnant officer in her office. She had to free herself through a fire escape.

A female civilian officer was forced to escape her locked office via a window.

Another female officer told investigations she was left in “fear and alarm” during a separate incident.

It took watchdog the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) almost a year and a half to investigate.

The Criminal Allegations Against Police Division of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service ruled proceedings should be taken against just one officer, Scott Gallop, who was convicted of sexual assault.

Gallop, who was allowed to retire from the force at age 54 before standing trial two years ago, was given a one-year community payback order and placed on the sex offenders register for a year.

Six more officers named by Gemma and others had no proceedings against them.

Gemma, who now lives in Norway, said: “They’ve been promoted. Officers who spoke up against them have either been sidelined or have left the force. What message does that send?

“The seven years I’ve spent fighting for justice almost broke me. I’m relieved to have settled the case. But it gives me no satisfaction whatsoever because of everything I lost and the knowledge that those who behaved so badly are still in the force and dealing with the public.”

Fight for justice

Gemma was awarded over £430,000 in settlement for the loss of her career, injury and distress. She says she will now be able to plan her wedding and future.

But Gemma remains determined to continue shining a light on bullying within Police Scotland and intends meeting MSPs in the future to tell them of her experiences. She said: “Former Chief Constable Iain Livingstone finally admitted before he left the force last year that it was sexist, racist and riven by misogyny. He was given a knighthood.

“Police Scotland has continued to claim that it has changed. But that is nothing more than a public relations exercise as good officers are leaving rather than staying in an abusive culture.”

Gemma claims the system tried to wear her down to shut her up, and she is calling for police complaints to be dealt with e by a completely independent outside body.

She said: “For things to really change we need a system overhaul or nothing will improve. During my case against Police Scotland, seven officers were named and put forward by PIRC to the Crown Office which only went ahead with a single case against just one officer, Gallop.

“When my lawyers asked to see evidence and reports regarding the others, we were refused access and told it was for Data Protection reasons. That secrecy allowed others to flourish while allegations against them were swept back under the carpet.”

Deputy Chief Constable Alan Speirs said: “Misogyny, sexism and discrimination of any kind is utterly unacceptable – it has no place in society and no place in policing.

“I will personally meet with Gemma and apologise for the way she was treated.”