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Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 18:00 GMT
Sacked Asian policeman returns to work
The BBC's Tim Sebastian met Gurpal Virdi
The BBC's Tim Sebastian met Gurpal Virdi
Gurpal Virdi, a Sikh police sergeant who was wrongly accused by the Metropolitan Police of sending racist hate mail, has spoken out about returning to work.

Mr Virdi told Tim Sebastian for BBC HARDtalk that he was apprehensive about going back after a four-year absence.

"It's going to be hard and I've got to look over my shoulder. I mean who's behind me," he said.

"I'm going to go in there with an open mind and I hope the Metropolitan Police receive me with an open mind."

He was dismissed in March 2000 after a disciplinary panel found him guilty of sending hate mail to ethnic minority officers in the division where he was based in Ealing, West London.

Discrimination

Gurpal Virdi
Mr Virdi was awarded 200,000 in compensation
The e-mails which were sent in December 1997 to 13 out of 15 non-white officers at the station, featured the initials of the National Front and read: "Not wanted. Keep the police white. Leave or else".

They had been sent through the force's internal mail system.

Mr Virdi, of Cranford near Heathrow, was accused of plotting to lodge a claim of racial discrimination because he had been turned down for a promotion.

Compensation

Sgt Virdi took his case to an employment tribunal which, in August 2000, found there was no evidence against him, and that he had been the victim of racial discrimination by investigating officers.

He was awarded 200,000 in compensation and received a full apology from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir John Stevens.

He was also formally reinstated on full pay.

In the interview, Mr Virdi called for a public investigation into the case to ensure the "culprits who sent the racist hate mail and the people who covered up for them" were brought to justice.

Credibility

He also claimed that his credibility had been sacrificed to protect the jobs of senior officials in the Metropolitan Police.

"If senior officers are going to lose their jobs, what's worse for the Metropolitan Police that they get rid of one sergeant or five or six senior officers," he said.

Virdi case timeline
Dec 97-Jan 98: Racist letters sent to non-white officers
April 98: Mr Virdi arrested
Feb 2000: Appears before police tribunal
March 2000: Found guilty and dismissed
Aug 2000: Employment tribunal finds him victim of racism
Nov 2000: Offered reinstatement and apology
Feb 2001: Receives a reported 200,000 settlement
"I think they'd rather get rid of a sergeant."

Mr Virdi also spoke out about his experiences of the police disciplinary panel who found him guilty of the e-mail hate campaign.

"It was a kangaroo court," he said.

"They decided without hearing the case that I was guilty and they just went along with it."

He went on to accuse the panel of gross misconduct.

"We were in a disciplinary hearing with our hands tied up trying to fight a case against the police service, which was totally wrong," he said.

"It's corrupt, the whole thing was corrupt."

Harassment

Speaking about his personal experience of racism in the Metropolitan Police, Mr Virdi cited specific instances of harassment including his locker being broken into, innuendo and horrible messages left in his in tray.

He also commented on an instance in April 1998 when his house was searched for seven hours by a specialist anti-terrorist police squad.

"They took everything they could lay their hands on, even a computer we had brought for our daughter on her tenth birthday."

HARDtalk can be seen at the following times:

BBC News 24 (times shown in GMT)
0430, repeated 2230.

BBC World (times shown in GMT)
0430, repeated 1130, 1630, 1930, 0030.

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Gurpal Virdi
"It's going to be hard and I've got to look over my shoulder."
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