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Friday, 8 December, 2000, 18:46 GMT
Record pay-out for sacked Sikh officer
Sgt Virdi with his wife Sathat outside Scotland Yard
Sergeant Gupal Virdi was sacked nine months ago
A Sikh police sergeant sacked after being wrongly accused of sending racist hate mail has received record damages of 150,000.

Gurpal Virdi won the payout for hurt feelings after he was racially discriminated against by the Metropolitan Police.

The 41-year-old was dismissed in March after a disciplinary panel found him guilty of sending the racist mail.

I hope this sends a message to the Metropolitan Police because they say they are learning lessons but they are not

Gurpal Virdi
Mr Virdi was accused of targeting himself and other ethnic minority officers in the division where he was based in Ealing, West London.

But in August an employment tribunal found there was no evidence against him and that he had been the victim of racial discrimination by investigating officers.

The damages award - 110,000 more than the previous record payout at an employment tribunal remedy - was made at London Central Employment Tribunal courts.

According to the Commission for Racial Equality it is also a record award for injury to feelings.

New tribunal looms

Speaking outside the tribunal Mr Virdi said: "We have got to the truth of the matter and the award reflects that.

"No award can fully compensate you as it is only money.

"I hope this sends a message to the Metropolitan Police because they say they are learning lessons but they are not."

The Metropolitan Police said it was considering whether to appeal against the award to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

It said in a statement it acknowledged Mr Virdi's case was a significant one.

But it pointed out that the sum awarded was almost three times any previous award for injury to feelings in a discrimination case.

"In these circumstances we are duty bound to consider an appeal because this is public money."

Next year Mr Virdi will take the Metropolitan Police to an employment tribunal claiming unfair dismissal.

Damages breakdown
100,000 for "a serious loss of reputation for someone with standing in the community"
25,000 for the "high handed" way Mr Virdi was dealt with
24,688 for interest
2,000 for lost overtime earnings
Only when that case ends will Mr Virdi decide whether to accept the force's offer to reinstate him, made last week.

Tribunal chairwoman Jessica Hill said the police had accepted they were liable to compensate Mr Virdi for wrongly accusing him.

"He claims that irreparable damage has been done to his reputation which will affect him for many years to come," said Ms Hill.

"Awards should not be too low as that would diminish respect for the policy of anti-discrimination legislation.

"The respondents accepted that this was a case where the level of compensation to be awarded for injury to feelings would be greater than that ever awarded in a tribunal before."

'Strong message' for police

Chris Boothman, legal director at the Commission for Racial Equality, said they were "very happy" for Mr Virdi but hoped the award would send a "very strong message" to the Metropolitan Police.

Mr Virdi was dismissed following a four-week disciplinary hearing into racist letters, delivered via the internal mail system.

First sent in December 1997, they told the targeted officers to leave the force and were signed with the initials of the National Front.

Six similar letters were received by civilian workers in January 1998.

Mr Virdi had given evidence on racism in the Metropolitan Police to the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and had 16 years unblemished service in the force.

Different treatment

The tribunal heard that his home was searched by investigators looking for more evidence after the messages were allegedly linked to his computer.

But the tribunal found Mr Virdi was treated differently during the investigation to another suspect who was a white female.

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