When it’s right to sack a Constable

Read this story from the Norwich Evening News.

A constable who accused Norfolk police of promoting gay rights over religious beliefs has been sacked from the force for misconduct.

PC Graham Cogman, from Sea Palling, had previously been disciplined after sending e-mails to colleagues quoting biblical texts and sending remarks which were considered offensive to homosexuals.

In one message, the 49-year-old suggested homosexual sex was sinful and another, addressed to a gay liaison officer, included the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the deed”. He later circulated the details of an American organisation which offered to “cure” homosexuality.

Norfolk police confirmed that, following a misconduct hearing yesterday, Mr Cogman was found guilty of two charges: one of failing to comply with a lawful order over the use of police computers and another of failing to treat a colleague with politeness and tolerance.

He was dismissed for the first charge and will be required to resign for the second, although he still has the right to appeal against both.

This followed an investigation led by Norfolk police’s professional standards department and supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Deputy chief constable Ian Learmonth said: “This officer’s behaviour fell well below what we expect of our people. The outcome follows a thorough investigation with evidence presented to a misconduct panel of three, two of whom were independent of the constabulary.”

The father-of-two, who attends the Anglican church at Sea Palling, had earlier threatened to take the force to an employment tribunal after he was disciplined. However, the EDP understands that the case is yet to be lodged.

Quite right too (the sacking). While I might agree with Cogman’s beliefs in this area, by all accounts it looks as though he was using his work time to put forward his religious views, outside of a context where he could be reasonably expected to do so. If, for example, he had been asked to do some work that would have conflicted with his conscience (hand out leaflets for a Pride March or something similar) then I can see how he could have reasonably explained to his line manager why he wasn’t able to do so. But to send out a mass email, and to send one email to the liaison officer simply to preach at him? Being removed from office for this is easily far beyond any defence that he is being "harassed for his beliefs".

I don’t think any appeal to a tribunal would have a leg to stand on.

Update 1pm

On the other hand, the report from the Daily Mail sheds extra light on the case.

A Christian policeman who objected to being ‘bombarded’ at work by emails and posters promoting gay rights and events has been sacked for misconduct.

PC Graham Cogman, 50, responded to the ‘politically correct’ campaign by sending emails to colleagues which quoted religious texts and suggested homosexual sex was sinful.

The regular churchgoer was hauled before a disciplinary committee where he was advised by lawyers to admit a breach of the police code of conduct to save his job.

But he was ordered before another hearing following further allegations, including breaching a ban on using internal communication system to circulate a link to an American Christian helpline, and has now been fired by Norfolk police.

Speaking yesterday at the home in Sea Palling, north Norfolk, he shares with his wife Elaine, 46, and their two children, he said: ‘The news that I have lost my job is only just sinking in and I am very upset.’

He confirmed he was considering an appeal against the dismissal and was continuing with plans to have his case heard by an employment tribunal on the grounds that he had been harassed over his Christian beliefs.

The case has been prepared by barrister Paul Diamond, who defended Nadia Eweida after she was suspended by British Airways for wearing a cross.

Speaking about his treatment earlier this year, Mr Cogman said: ‘The blatant support for homosexual rights in Norfolk police makes being a Christian officer extremely difficult.

So what we have now is a situation where the constable in question was being asked to do things that contravened his religious beliefs.

He was based at the force’s eastern headquarters in Great Yarmouth in early 2006 when gay liaison officers circulated an email urging officers to wear a pink ribbon on their uniform to mark Gay History Month.

The station was also ‘bombarded’ with gay posters and information about gay events.

In order to express his own views, he emailed colleagues biblical texts suggesting homosexual sex was sinful.

As a result, he was ordered to stop using the internal messaging system for failing to show ‘respect and tolerance’ to fellow officers.

The following year, officers were encouraged to wear rainbow ribbons during Gay History Month.

In his response to the sender – which was sent to other officers – Mr Cogman said it was ‘inappropriate, thoughtless and insensitive’ as the rainbow symbolises God’s faithfulness.

He also sent a five-page document to one of the gay liaison officers which included a few paragraphs that criticised homosexuality.

He was ordered to attend a full disciplinary hearing where he was accused of victimising another gay liaison officer by saying: ‘Love the sinner, hate the deed.’

What I love is this statement from the police hierarchy (emphasis added)

Deputy Chief Constable Ian Learmonth added: ‘This officer’s behaviour fell well below what we expect of our people.

‘We require an absolute commitment from all our staff to treat colleagues with politeness, tolerance and respect, regardless of their beliefs, age, gender or sexual orientation.’

Interesting! I wonder what an employment tribunal would make of a claim for unfair dismissal on the grounds of Cogman’s religious beliefs being discriminated against when he was encouraged to wear pink or rainbow ribbons?

Any thoughts?

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