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One man's fight for justice

PICTURED: Gurpal Singh Virdi

ON WEDNESDAY 15 April 1998, Detective Sergeant Gurpal Singh Virdi was arrested and accused of sending racist hate mail to himself and ethnic minority colleagues. Dismissed from the Metropolitan Police Service, his reputation in ruins, Virdi took his case to an employment tribunal, which judged that he had been a victim of racial discrimination.

Completely vindicated, Virdi was reinstated to the job he loved – but his travails were far from over. Constantly overlooked for promotion, he realised that by challenging the Met he had effectively ended his career.

Following his retirement from the force and keen to serve his local community, Virdi decided to run for election as a Labour councillor – but, prior to the election, he was arrested again. The allegations levelled against him were horrifying: he stood accused of sexually assaulting an underage prisoner nearly thirty years earlier.

Yet when the case went to trial, a jury took less than fifty minutes to clear Virdi of all charges. But the damage had been done. Behind the Blue Line is Virdi’s deeply shocking account of how one of Britain’s biggest institutions brought the apparatus of the state to bear in a campaign to
destroy the life of one of its own officers.

“Behind the Blue Line is the story of a good public servant. Without rancour, it details the obstacles, the prejudice and the official carelessness that can get in the way of a dedicated officer’s career. We can learn from it. We must learn from it. These events should never be
able to happen again."

The Voice caught up with Gurpal for a Q&A session.

Q: Your new book ‘Behind The Blue Line’ can be described as a no holds barred account of what happened to you, would you agree with this view and what are you hoping that it will do?

Gurpal Singh Virdi: I disagree to some extent, as I am barred from revealing the full extent of the truth due to the unfair anonymity laws in the UK. The book does however, within limits, take the reader through a journey that any one of us can face – false allegations.

Despite being requested, there is no public inquiry, no IPCC (now IOPC) investigation, no accountability of wrongdoing by senior officials of the police and CPS - the book is the only way forward to give my side of the story in order to expose the reality of what happened.

Sir Peter Bottomley and Dr Richard Stone have supported me by writing forwards in this book, both are seeking an inquiry. I am in agreement in fighting burning injustices.

Q: By all accounts you have been through a traumatic series of events, to what extent were your family affected?

SV: It has been very traumatic in that my health has suffered but more so, my wife, Sathat, who is now on medication. My children are very supportive as were family members and some friends. My niece’s wedding had to be cancelled. The main thing is that we are all together and stronger.

Q: Is your trust in the Police force gone for good now, or is there a way back?

SV: I have always been a supporter of the police as there are many officers who work hard and are dedicated to keeping us safe. I was suspicious of the police when senior officers threatened me after I had made a submission to the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry.

My trust in senior officers has diminished as they were overseeing this case and should have intervened to stop it but instead they sanctioned it. The government and police would benefit from my experience and forward thinking, no doubt this job will go to someone else.

Q: Hopefully you look back on your early career as a serving officer with pride, do you ever wonder where your career might have gone had things been different?

SV: Ever since I can remember, I wanted to join the police or the army following family footsteps. It is a tradition within the Sikh culture that the third child will go into public service. After witnessing the race riots and police brutality of the 70’s and 80’s, I was more determined to join the police to make a difference.

I enjoyed my service as I enjoyed working for the public to improve their lives and make them feel safe. I did not enjoy the bullying and racism that occurred behind the scenes within the police. My career as a BAME officer was doing fine despite the discrimination until I got to Sergeant rank at Ealing where I challenged some of my colleagues and senior officers about their bigoted attitudes.

Many of the White officers of similar service had reached very senior ranks whilst my career stopped back in 1998 at Sergeant rank despite me passing my Inspector’s exams. I was going no further.

Q: Were you surprised at the extent that the authorities went to in order to “discredit you ”?

SV: You would think that after so many high profile public inquiries, in particular, the VIRDI Inquiry, that the police would learn lessons and improve but in reality, most of the recommendations from these inquiries gather dust. I challenged the unfair promotion system through the Employment Tribunals although I did not benefit, many of those behind did. I am proud of that.

I wasn’t that surprised at the extent because that is what the establishment does. Unlike others for monetary gain when settling their claims of discrimination, I refused to sign confidentiality clauses. I can talk about my experiences, this has been the motive of the DPS in the Met to target me. Since being reinstated in 2002, I was constantly being investigated for one thing or another. The establishment does not like to see positive BAME role models who can fight for their communities and expose wrongdoing, instead they want ‘puppets’ that can be controlled.

It should be noted that no White officers has been treated in this manner. It should be noted that no retired White officer has been subjected to such vile, malicious and false allegations. It should be noted that there has been no Gold Group for a White officer in similar circumstances. Furthermore, it should be noted that the Police Federation refused to support me or to fund my case. This was a wholly unreliable and sustainable case.

Q: To what extent did your experience and understanding of the police help you prove your innocence in both cases?

SV: Being a detective did help as I knew how the process worked and how to establish the truth. In both of my high-profile cases, I had a good team of solicitors and barristers.

Q: Are you cautious about interacting with the police? And do you believe that you would be treated fairly if you were ever a victim of crime or had to report a crime?

SV: Naturally, I am cautious as my wife and I have been victims of crimes and the local police have not investigated matters properly. In this case, towards the end of the book, I make allegations of perjury and making false statements. The investigating officer shuts down the investigation as he was asked to assess the ‘legitimacy’ of the allegations. That says it all. So, the simple answer is, I will not be treated fairly.

Q: When things were at their worst were you ever tempted to give up or were you determined to see it through?

SV: I left the police service to start a new life in politics, the Met made such vile and malicious allegations topped up with relentless negative publicity. I was put in corner therefore determined to see it through.

Q: At the time of the initial arrest was there anything leading up to that period that indicated what was about to happen?

SV: I was concerned that if I stayed within the police, something would have happened as I was constantly being targeted with malicious allegations because I was raising matters of equality and fairness. My family were getting stressed as well, so I reluctantly left the job that I loved and enjoyed. I had done everything by the book so I had nothing to fear. When I left I thought that was the end of the matter.

The knock on the door did come as a shock.

Q: What does the future hold for Gurpal Virdi, are there any other books in the pipeline?

SV: Due to the negative publicity and allegations made, my political career is over. I wanted to teach, that is over. I wanted to live aboard, that is over. I cannot get any suitable employment. The Met has really messed me and my family. I have enjoyed writing this book and I do have plans for more writing.

Behind The Blue Line
My fight against racism and discrimination in the police
By Gurpal Virdi
March 2018, £20, Hardback
Published by Biteback Publishing
To Order your exclusive copy and take advantage of our reader offer please use the link below
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