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dismissed Police officer sacked for using the word ‘p**ey’ in text message loses unfair dismissal case

The word is derogatory towards Romany Gypsies and members of the Irish Traveller community.

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A police officer in the UK who was sacked for using the word “p**ey” in a text message has lost an unfair dismissal case.

Former chief special officer Tom Haye was dismissed from his role at Hampshire Constabulary in February 2021 after being found guilty of gross misconduct.

It came after he sent a WhatsApp message reading: “Keep the p***eys out” to a colleague who was house-sitting for him in May 2018 while on holidays in America.

The word p***ey is a term that is derogatory towards Romany Gypsies and members of the Irish Traveller community.

A bilingual Dutch national from the Netherlands, Haye claimed he tried to use the English version of the word ‘pikken’ which means ‘steal’ in Dutch, and meant no offence by it.

Haye argued that he didn’t think properly about the word’s context in English and argued that he meant to refer to “thieves as p***ys, not travellers.”

He also said he should not have been dismissed as he “does not have a racist mindset.”

“I would like to apologise for any offence given by this term,” Haye told the hearing.

“I am a bilingual Dutch national and, in haste, I used the term as a direct substitute for the Dutch word to steal – 'pikken' – without properly thinking through its derogatory meaning in English. I refute I meant it in any pejorative manner.”

“At the time, there had been burglaries near where I lived. My friend was house sitting while I was away to deter any thieves and this was the context for the conversation.”

“[The decision to dismiss me] is disproportionate to what I did, especially in relation to other much more serious recent offences in Hampshire where police officers were not dismissed.”

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“Finally, I take comfort in the fact my friends and family know I am in no way prejudiced against anyone.”

Rachel Crasnow QC, chairwoman of the Police Appeals Tribunal, told the hearing that Haye had sent the message in 2018 after “he and others had been victims of rural crimes.”

“The appellant accepted he sent the message but argued it amounted to misconduct only.”

Announcing her decision to dismiss the unfair dismissal case, she said: “The appeal will fail. We have reached the view that we are not entitled to interfere with the chief constable's decision.”

“This is because the chief constable reached a reasonable decision taking into account that this was a single incident.”

“She didn't hear evidence from the appellant that his use of language was a slip or accident nor did she hear submissions about whether the appellant had a racist mindset.”

Charles Apthorp, representing the force, said: “The use of this type of language is utterly inappropriate and casts a very long shadow over the reputation of Hampshire Constabulary.”

He added that “to allow Mr Haye to continue in his role would send a message that it's acceptable in a senior level of management to use racist language in Hampshire Constabulary.”

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