Police force was a sexist boys’ club, claims former head of legal services

The former head of legal services for Northumbria Police has accused the force of “overt sexism” and says she was “physically afraid” of one officer.

An employment tribunal has heard claims that Northumbria Police was a “boys’ club” where sexual discrimination was rife.

The claims have been made by Denise Aubrey, who was sacked for gross misconduct after she was alleged to have disclosed ‘protected information’ about an affair involving a high ranking officer with a female colleague – who was also married to a police officer – prior to being sacked.

An order was put in place banning the identification of the officers involved. It was claimed a record of a fight between the high ranking officer, and the husband of his alleged ‘lover’ was removed from a police log – and that Ms Aubrey made reference to the “widely circulated” rumours in a meeting.

She denies this and is suing the force, where she worked for more than 20 years until 2014, for wrongful dismissal, unfair dismissal following protected disclosures, victimisation, disability discrimination and sexual discrimination.

Unusually, the retired chief constable who was in charge at the time Ms Aubrey was dismissed is due to give evidence in her support.

The force “ruined my life, my mental health and my career,” said Ms Aubrey.

The force denies the claims at the employment tribunal being held in North Shields.

She claims she was referred to as ‘sex on legs’ and ‘sex on a stick’ by her superiors – and that a male chief inspector once told her she had ‘been appointed as the ‘token woman’.’

She described how on one occasion, after giving a presentation, she was told that ‘everyone was transfixed as they could see my nipples through my blouse.’

She claims on one occasion the force’s current chief constable, Steve Ashman, said: “I’m going to get rid of her, whatever it takes.”

“I became physically afraid of what he would do or say next. I was married to my job and it meant all the world to me and I was devastated by what was happening,” she said.

Ms Aubrey, described as the ‘keeper of the secrets’ of the force in the past, denies she breached confidentiality.

She earned more than £80,000-a-year and had been with the force for 20 years when she was suspended on June 25, 2013.

She was sacked the following year despite not being present at her own disciplinary hearing as she had suffered a ‘moderate depressive episode’.

Northumbria Police deny her claims, and that she was unfairly dismissed. The case, due to last three weeks, continues