Committee guilty of racism

A BLACK probation officer was subjected to racial discrimination by his employer, the Merseyside Probation Committee, which denied him access to a practice teacher's course, the Liverpool industrial tribunal has ruled.

In its decision handed down on 7 October the tribunal, which sat for 24 days, accepted the argument of Hamilton De Gale who claimed he was suitably qualified to become a practice teacher, which would have represented an important career development.

The committee, which receives funding from a variety of sources including local authorities, was alleged to have treated De Gale unfairly in comparison to white officers.

The National Association of Probations Officers' solicitor, Stephen Pinder, a partner at Brian Thompson & Partners, says the decision is important because it will have an impact on other local authority and public sector services, such as education and policing.

"Within an organisation like the probation service, which deals with offenders from all parts of society, racial awareness is important. That starts with the probation service's own staff," says Pinder.

"In a community like Liverpool it is especially important because it sends a message to minorities that their rights are there to be protected."