A policewoman has been awarded a £15,000 sex discrimination payout because she could not carry a dog up a hill during a test to become a handler.
PC Kim-Louise Carter, who remains a serving police officer earning about £25,000 a year, won the taxpayer-funded compensation after complaining that the attempted 70-yard uphill trek, carrying a police dog called Hulk, left her legs feeling ‘like jelly’.
Even though employment tribunal judges noted that three out of four female candidates completed the task, they ruled it was unfair on women and must be made easier, while instructors must undergo ‘equality training’.
PC Carter joined Gloucestershire Constabulary in 2013 and in 2016 applied to be a dog handler
Critics say the compensation paid to PC carter is ludicrous
During the test Miss Carter undertook a ten-mile run before she had to carry a dog over a course known as ‘The Long Walk’, in wet and muddy conditions
The case will revive fears of a compensation culture in the police. The Mail on Sunday revealed in 2013 that police fitness tests were watered down amid fears of legal action and compensation claims by women and older officers.
PC Carter joined Gloucestershire Constabulary in 2013 and in 2016 applied to be a dog handler as part of a ‘tri-force’ unit with Avon & Somerset and Wiltshire.
The two-day test began with assessment of the candidates’ ‘ability to communicate with the dog’ followed by a ‘long walk’. At the end of the walk, when they were ‘tired and at a low ebb’, according to the judges, the candidates had to carry a dog – usually an alsatian – over 70 yards uphill. If they could not do so, they failed the entire assessment.
PC Carter ‘had a somewhat difficult time’ during the walk, the judgment said, ‘not least because her dog got into a fight with another dog and bit another handler’.
She completed the course in two-and-a-half hours. But then she tried to carry a 5½ st dog, known as Hulk, over 70 yards and then a lighter one called Fizz, but was too ‘exhausted’ to complete the task.
As a result, PC Carter was told she was being withdrawn.
The following week, her Police Federation representative, Ian White, wrote to the force to complain about the gruelling nature of the test, claiming most current dog handlers would fail it, likening it to ‘a special forces selection procedure’ and claiming ‘indirect discrimination on the grounds of sex’.
The sex discrimination tribunal that proved the way police forces recruit dog handlers is unfair
The force insisted the assessment was not a fitness test but rather judged suitability to be a dog handler. But the judges said it was ‘at heart a test of physical fitness’, and far tougher than the simple shuttle run all police officers must pass.
Although three out of four women passed the dog-carrying test in 2016, the judges insisted it ‘places women at a particular disadvantage’.
The claimant showed courage in bringing the case. It is unfortunate that [the force] sought in their defence to deflect attention from the indirect discrimination, blaming her for a lack of fitness or confidence
They pointed out at least half of serving dog handlers had not taken the ‘elite’ test, so the force could not claim it was necessary for the role. And they added: ‘The claimant was… humiliated by a failure treated as personal and deeply disappointed by the outcome… She had prepared well and saw herself as at peak fitness. She found herself facing a discriminatory assessment, competing as it happened with male officers.’
They concluded: ‘The claimant showed courage in bringing the case. It is unfortunate that [the force] sought in their defence to deflect attention from the indirect discrimination, blaming her for a lack of fitness or confidence.’
Last night, Tory backbencher and former special constable David Davies, said: ‘This is a ludicrous decision. It’s quite obvious that police dog handlers have to be very fit as they have to chase people.’