Two former undercover detectives with West Yorkshire Police have won damages approaching £100,000 after they were penalised for whistleblowing.
Both officers, one of whom had almost 20 years’ experience, were moved to civilian desk jobs shortly after lodging complaints about management.
The force insisted the more senior of the two had been moved because of social links to a corrupt officer who was convicted of selling seized drugs to criminals.
And his more junior colleague had been shifted after he got a “small tattoo” which made him unsuitable for undercover work, said police lawyers.
Distinctive tattoos interfered with detectives’ ability to create convincing “legends” or cover stories, it was argued.
But, after a hearing behind closed doors last year, an employment tribunal ruled both men had been subjected to “detriments” for blowing the whistle.
And now, after another hearing, Judge Neil Maidment has awarded the pair thousands of pounds in damages.
The junior officer – referred to as B – will get £28,329, plus an additional payment equal to the value of 1,873 hours of overtime.
The other officer – known as C – will receive £20,171, plus the value of 570 hours of overtime.
Both officers had suffered “significant detrimental treatment”, in particular by their removal from undercover work, said the judge.
“The detrimental actions took place over a significant period of time and had significant effects on both claimants,” he said.
Officer B had suffered sickness, absence from work and an incident of self-harm as a result of the stress, said the judge.
But for his treatment at work, he would not have found himself in such a “dark place”, he said.
Officer C’s “significant award” would compensate his “effective loss of a 20-year career as an undercover officer”, he told the tribunal.
In the earlier tribunal ruling Judge David Richardson said the pair made “repeated” and “undoubtedly serious” complaints about the management of their unit.
They were so concerned that they “covertly recorded” some of their meetings with more senior officers.
By April 2013 their dissatisfaction was “out in the open” and both men ultimately lodged formal complaints with the force’s professional standards department.
But Judge Richardson ruled that their complaints about management “materially influenced” the decision to shift them from the undercover unit.
Neither of the officers can be identified for legal reasons. The tribunal gave its decision on May 31 2017, but it has only just been published.