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Woman inspector humiliated by failing riot test wins up to £30k in age discrimination claim

12 June 2011

Subject : News

For 30 years it has been used to test the fitness of officers who police riots and other outbreaks of serious public disorder.

The so-called 'shield run' involves officers covering a distance of 500 metres in less than two minutes, 45 seconds while wearing full riot gear and carrying a shield.

But when Inspector Diane Bamber, 51, failed to meet the time limit, she claimed she had been left humiliated.

She brought a sex and age discrimination case against her force, Greater Manchester Police, and now stands to win up to £30,000 after an employment tribunal ruled in her favour.

Officers have to be able to run a distance of 500 metres in two minutes, 45 seconds in full riot gear.

The landmark case has opened the door for thousands of other women officers to claim payouts and has triggered a review of specialist police training across the country.

Insp Bamber, a serving officer for more than 30 years who still works for Greater Manchester Police, attended an Initial Public Order Commanders' Course in Lancashire in November 2008.

She complained to the tribunal that prior to the course starting she had been led to believe that she would not have to take part in the shield run. But on the day of the test, Insp Bamber was informed that all officers who wanted to be considered for events where trouble was a possibility would have to pass it.

She agreed to run but she did not finish in the allotted time. Her failure meant she could not complete the rest of the training course.

When Insp Bamber applied to retake the shield run, it is alleged that one of her colleagues remarked: 'She's got no f****** chance.'

In fact she did pass at the second attempt several months later – after Greater Manchester Police made it easier by raising the time limit to three minutes.

The tribunal heard that on the second occasion, Insp Bamber gave herself the equivalent of an extra 20 seconds by starting at the front of the group. Previously, she had started at the back but the clock starts when the first person sets off.

In her ruling, Judge Hilary Slater said Insp Bamber's claims of indirect sex and age discrimination were 'well-founded'.

Noting that the officer had 'suffered humiliation at being sent away from the course', Judge Slater added: 'The tribunal concludes that the claimant was put at the disadvantage suffered by women and persons of her age group in that she failed the test and was not able to complete the training.'

The shield run was first introduced in the Eighties when Scotland Yard used it to test the fitness of officers policing the Notting Hill Carnival. Greater Manchester Police also conducted the runs for 30 years but has now dropped them.

The Mail on Sunday understands that the Association of Chief Police Officers is now reviewing the lawfulness of the physical training formats for 13 specialist operational roles, including those for firearms officers, which could discriminate against women and older officers.

Last night Tory MP Robert Halfon said: 'At a time when forces face enormous challenges and need to do all they can  to protect frontline service, it is bizarre they are being forced to use taxpayers' money to pay compensation in cases such as these.'

The level of compensation will be set later this month.

Article from Mail online

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