A Judge has dubbed a unit within Police Scotland “an absolute boys’ club” which contributed to a “horrific work culture”, leading to the victimisation of a female colleague.

An employment tribunal ruled that former firearms officer Rhona Malone, who previously worked for Police Scotland, was subject to victimisation whilst working in the force.

Ms. Malone reported that the victimisation came about when she complained about an email sent out by her superior, Inspector Warhurst.

In January 2018, Inspector Warhurst sent out an email which argued that two female officers should not be deployed together when there were sufficient male staff on duty.

This, he claimed, “made more sense from a search, balance of testosterone perspective” and factored in the “obvious differences in physical capacity”.

In addition to this, the same Inspector was found to have circulated images of topless women to a WhatsApp group of male sergeants.

Other circumstances of sexist behaviour was brought forward including Sergeant Rachel Coates, a colleague of Ms. Malone’s, being informed by the chief firearms instructor that women should not become authorised firearms officers because they menstruated which “affected their temperament”.

Additionally, when the same Sergeant asked the chief firearms instructor whether female officers could wear trousers and a top, as opposed to their usual one-piece, her superior swore at her.

Two female officers within the Firearms unit, including Sergeant Coates, decided to leave the force entirely, feeling that “their sex was always going to be a barrier to promotion”.

The employment tribunal ultimately ruled that Ms. Malone had been victimised but dismissed her claims of direct sex discrimination as it was found that senior officers did not act on Warhurt’s suggestions laid out in the email.

Ms. Malone’s solicitor stated:

The employment tribunal’s findings lay bare the misogynistic attitudes and culture within armed policing and the hostile treatment police officers face when they try to call it out.

This was echoed by the claimant herself who said:

The unconscious bias in Police Scotland is so deep that they don’t even realise.

Misogynist banter is nurtured and no one steps in to say this is wrong. So that poisonous culture is just going to grow.

She further criticised Police Scotland for “promoting the wrong people and [making] those who speak up look like the problem”.

Ms. Malone also stated that her former employer had “hidden behind NDAs”, offering her a pay-out before the tribunal commenced in return for her silence.

Police Scotland issued an apology and said it will address the issues raised by the ruling as a “matter of urgency”.

The ruling of this case comes amid greater scrutiny of the police in the UK, following the death of Sarah Everard.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.