A gay police officer who was taunted over his friendship with entertainer Michael Barrymore has won a sexual orientation discrimination tribunal.
Pc Dan Lichters was asked by colleagues if he “sh****d any other celebrities”, inferring the dog handler had a sexual relationship with the TV star.
Despite being described as an “exemplary officer” Mr Lichters was subjected to a “campaign to remove him” from the unit because of his sexuality, the tribunal was told.
When his puppy was attacked and injured by a pitbull rumours were spread that Mr Lichters was “having gay sex on Hampstead Heath” and had neglected the dog.
He also went on to endure accusations of gross misconduct and even criminal allegations after his police dog bit a drunken member of the public who had attacked it.
But the tribunal found all of the accusations he faced were baseless and Mr Lichters had been targeted because he is gay.
The damning ruling said: “In our judgment that lack of trust, suspicion and dislike of the Claimant existed throughout the [MPS’ Dog Support] Unit.
“It arose [from] or was inextricably linked to his sexual orientation. We were not given any other basis for it.
“There was no evidence that his behaviour within the Unit warranted this treatment or mistrust by colleagues or senior officers.
“The incidents were linked by the Respondent’s attitude towards the Claimant – which was one of mistrust, disbelief, dislike and suspicion throughout his time in the Unit when the evidence shows he was a hard-working and exemplary officer.”
The tribunal heard how on his first day in the unit an inspector said: “Oh, you’re one of those are you?” referring to him being an openly gay officer.
Another inspector told him: “We don’t want queers in the dog section.”
When Mr Lichters’ puppy was attacked by another dog the tribunal heard: “The claimant became aware around this time of a number of rumours circulating within the unit about how the puppy was injured.
“One of those rumours was that instead of how he stated the incident occurred, he had actually been having gay sex on Hampstead Heath and had neglected the puppy, which had been injured by being stabbed by a screwdriver.”
Mr Lichters heard from a former colleague that he was “at the centre of a number of jokes in relation to the death at Mr Barrymore’s home” and that management had been discussing “his involvement in the Michael Barrymore incident”.
He added that there was a “campaign to remove him from the unit” and that he had been “discredited before he started”.
Mr Lichters said: “I have suffered five years of discrimination, victimisation and harassment due to my sexual orientation.
“I feel completely vindicated by the tribunal who said they believed my account entirely. I wish to carry on serving the public as a police officer, but hope the Metropolitan Police learn from the tribunal’s findings.
“I'd like to thank the Police Federation, my legal team at Slater and Gordon, my Counsel, Akua Reindorf of Cloisters Chambers, and the Gay Police Association for their support.”
Mr Lichters’ lawyer, an employment law specialist at Slater and Gordon, said: “It’s extremely disappointing that officers are facing this sort of prejudice and discrimination.
“The Metropolitan Police needs to take this tribunal ruling very seriously and take swift steps to address the failings which have been identified.
“Mr Lichters is an exemplary police officer and suffered years of discrimination and harassment simply because he is gay.
“He was also victimised when he complained about his treatment. The Met needs to ensure people are treated equally and not discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.”