Physics graduate, 25, who was turned down by police force where his detective inspector father works for not being disabled, black, transgender or gay finally gets officer job
Henry Martin – Mail Online May 30, 2019
A police applicant who was rejected for being a white heterosexual male is now set to join the force after it was found to have discriminated against him.
Matthew Furlong, 25, wanted to follow in the footsteps of his detective inspector father Liam, 52, when he applied for a job with Cheshire Police – where his father still works – in 2017.
Mr Furlong, who has a degree in particle physics from Lancaster University, performed well in tests and in interview but the force was desperate for more recruits from ethnic and sexual minorities so it refused to hire him.
His father was so stunned that Mr Furlong had been overlooked despite his outstanding performance at his job interview that he launched a formal complaint.
Mr Furlong, who said there was a ‘strong possibility’ he would have been working with the force had he lied and claimed to be bisexual, won in a tribunal, said to be the first of its kind.
Now police forces across the country are reviewing their policies regarding so-called ‘positive action’ and diversity.
An employment tribunal found Cheshire Constabulary discriminated against Mr Furlong on the grounds of sexual orientation, race and sex.
Lawyers for Mr Furlong said a settlement had been reached with the force and he would be joining as a student officer in September.
Jennifer Ainscough, an employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said: ‘Positive action is an incredibly important tool to aid diversity in the workforce but this case is a reminder that it must be applied correctly to ensure that employers still recruit candidates based on merit above all else.
‘Matthew was an exceptional candidate who I am sure will be an exceptional police officer and we wish him every success in his future career.’
Cheshire Constabulary Deputy Chief Constable Julie Cooke said: ‘We accept the findings of the tribunal and have looked very carefully at our entire recruitment practice.
‘Action has been taken to change some of our processes and take account of the hearing’s result.
‘It is important for us, and for candidates, that the recruitment process is fair and transparent and that all candidates are treated in a fair and consistent manner.
‘However, I would like to stress that these processes were put in place with the best of intentions to attract candidates from diverse communities, and at no time were the standards of our recruits reduced.’
Mr Furlong’s lawyers said it was the first reported case of its kind in the UK, after the employment tribunal ruled Cheshire Constabulary used ‘positive action’ – where employers take steps to recruit certain groups of people with different characteristics – but in a discriminatory way.
Due to the terms of the settlement agreement, Mr Furlong and his family are not able to comment on the issue, the spokesperson confirmed.
The case could well have a deep impact on police forces across the country – as it may set a precedent of preventing them from using ‘positive action’ methods to recruit people from under-represented groups in future.
In a February ruling a judge criticised the force for treating candidates with ‘protected characteristics’ – such as being gay, transgender, disabled, black or from other ethnic minorities – more favourably than Mr Furlong, who was ‘a white, heterosexual male without disability’.
Following the ruling Mr Furlong’s father said: ‘I’ve tried not to get involved. It is such a political hot potato.
‘The chief constable is big on diversity, which is quite right, but it has to be applied within the letter of the law and they didn’t do that.’
In February Matthew Furlong had said: ‘It has completely shattered my confidence in the police force recruitment system.
‘The irony of the whole thing is that throughout the whole process I was required to demonstrate my honesty and integrity and they have completely undermined that.
‘Had I lied on my interview form and said I was bisexual, for instance, there’s a strong possibility I would be working for Cheshire Police now based on a lie.’
Mr Furlong’s employment tribunal in Liverpool heard that in 2015 chief officers at Cheshire Police launched an ‘action plan’ to recruit more black, Asian and female officers.
This followed a government review which had revealed the force had zero black officers, only five from Asian backgrounds and four of mixed race, with more than 1,400 white officers.
Police forces review ‘positive action’ policies after landmark case
All police forces in the country make their own recruitment and diversity policies – though guidelines are issued by bodies such as the College of Policing and National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).
Matthew Furlong’s employment tribunal was told that in 2015 Cheshire Police bosses launched an ‘action plan’ to recruit more black, Asian and female officers after a government review revealed the force had zero black officers, only five from Asian backgrounds and four of mixed race.
The force, which had more than 1,400 white officers, started holding recruitment days at pride events, faith centres and Sikh temples, and appointed an LGBT ‘positive action adviser’ to help drive online recruitment.
The force’s chief constable at the time, Janette McCormick, believed ‘passionately about positive action and … a diverse police force,’ Mr Furlong’s tribunal was told, and although officer numbers from minority groups had increased by 2017, the plan was said to have only had ‘a small effect’.
The landmark tribunal of Mr Furlong heard that there were not enough vacancies for all the 127 candidates who passed their interview stage – but Judge Grundy found the interview pass threshold was set ‘artificially low’, with candidates awarded a simple pass or fail.
The judge said this was done so Cheshire Constabulary could appoint officers from minority groups specifically, meaning Mr Furlong was denied a position due to ‘positive action’.
Police forces are now expected to ensure their hiring policies do not replicate the methods used by Cheshire Constabulary.