Firefighters face sack over homophobic, misogynistic and racist bullying, fire brigade chief says

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Firefighters could be sacked if they are found to have been homophobic, racist, misogynistic, or have bullied, London Fire Brigade’s (LFB) boss has said.

The announcement follows the LFB’s latest independent culture review, led by Nazir Afzal OBE, a former chief crown prosecutor, who concluded “LFB is institutionally misogynist and racist”.

Contained in the report is evidence of “dangerous levels of ingrained prejudice against women”, and colleagues from minority backgrounds “frequently” being the targets of “racist abuse”.

It highlights “poor behaviour and painful experiences over many years” and features accounts ranging from women being groped to people having their helmets filled with urine. 

In one recorded incident someone put a mock noose above a black firefighter’s locker, while another incident revealed a Muslim firefighter, who was bullied because of his faith, had bacon put in his sandwiches by his colleagues. 

A female firefighter told the review LFB’s threshold for bullying is so high “you would have to gouge someone’s eyes out to get sacked”.

London Fire Commissioner Andy Roe has said: “If we find that you have behaved in a way that is highlighted in this report, there is not a place for you in the London Fire Brigade.

In response to how many could lose their jobs, he added: “In a way the numbers don’t matter to me.

“We are going to take a zero tolerance approach to bullying and harassment and discrimination.”

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Prince William with London Fire Brigade Commissioner Andy Roe (L). (Dominic Lipinski – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

He continued: “What that means, if we think about the immediate steps, is that I expect to dismiss people as a result of this report.

“Clearly, there are some disturbing examples of where we have betrayed public confidence and trust in this report.”

Roe has said the process of sacking those responsible for the toxic behaviour will start “immediately”, but there is currently no estimate on how much it will cost. 

Afzal concluded: “My review found evidence that supports a finding that LFB is institutionally misogynist and racist.”

Based on the experiences of the current and former staff members interviewed, the report makes 23 recommendations to improve the LFB’s culture. 

The review was conducted over 12 months with more than 2,000 current and former members of the LFB sharing their experiences.

It follows the death of a firefighter on development, Jaden Matthew Francois-Esprit, who tragically took his own life in August 2020. 

The report noted Francois-Esprit’s family were worried he had been bullied because of his race. 

Roe told PA he has spoken to Francois-Esprit’s family “on more than one occasion” and he hopes to speak to them in the future. 

He added: “I would apologise to them as I have when I met them previously, and I would ask them if they could see the report as the catalyst for change this organisation needs and that report was driven by the tragic death of their son.

“So if there has to be a legacy for Jaden then let it be that he was the reason we called this report in such a way and let his legacy be one of change.”

Gareth Cook, of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said the union campaigns against all discrimination and is “committed to equality”.

“However, we have raised concerns about many of the issues contained within this report historically and as a consequence we remain sceptical about the changes senior leaders will implement with regards to their own behaviours,” Cook added. 

In 2020 Leighton brigade member Patrick Carberry told PinkNews he was subjected to vile abuse from Brexiteers for simply pointing out that a comment was racist.