Sexual harassment case to be appealed

A policewoman claiming she was sexually harassed is to have her case heard by the Court of Appeal. Roger Pearson reports.

A policewoman who claims she was a victim of sexual harassment by a male colleague has been given the go-ahead to take her case to the Court of Appeal.

The policewoman, who complains that a male colleague constantly sexually harassed her while she was serving in Halifax in 1994, has been given leave to appeal against earlier rulings that she is not entitled to compensation.

The woman, who is identified only as "Miss X", sued her West Yorkshire Police bosses claiming that during her time at Halifax she was physically and sexually abused and harassed by a male colleague.

Among her many claims she says that on one occasion he straddled her by putting his legs on either side of hers so that their pelvises touched and pulled her by the shoulders towards him.

On another occasion, just before they were due to go out on patrol together, she claims that he asked her if she had clean knickers on because he was going to inspect them later.

She also says he would ask her if she was wearing tights or stockings and if she said tights he would tell her she should be wearing stockings so he could feel them.

She complains that he constantly made unpleasant and offensive sexist remarks to her, regularly followed her from room to room, and that the only way she could avoid him was by going into the ladies' toilets.

Despite hearing over 20 witnesses, an Industrial Tribunal took the view that she had exaggerated her complaints.

Preferring the male officer's version, the tribunal rejected her claim. That decision was later upheld by the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

In giving the green light for Miss X to take her case to the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Peter Gibson said that the policeman in question admitted that the straddling incident and the remarks about Miss X's knickers had taken place.

Lord Justice Gibson said that as such it could be argued that, as these incidents would not have taken place other than in a male/female context, they could be seen to be evidence of sexual harassment.

The case is expected to be heard next year.

Tess Gill, instructed by Pattinson & Brewer of York, is representing the policewoman.