The PSNI police are refusing to pay after an equality tribunal issued a judgement in favour of a police photographer who suffered heavy discrimination for marrying a Catholic.
The Fair Employment Tribunal heard that two senior officers tried to make Stephen Murphy’s life “as difficult as possible” and to force him to leave.
Stephen Murphy, was a Presbyterian living in Ballymena who married a Catholic woman from south Armagh, was subjected to severe religious intimidation by two mid-ranking police officers determined to force him from his post at Knocknagoney police station in east Belfast.
His fiancee was described by an acting PSNI sergeant as a “whore” and “that Catholic bitch” while it was also alleged that some police officers handed over details about Mr Murphy to paramilitaries who threatened his life.
Initially, in early 2001, Mr Murphy found that he was moved from normal duties, that he was given a poor appraisal and that generally his working life was made increasingly difficult.
Mr Murphy was warned by a police officer in the station that he was present at a discussion where the inspector said to the acting sergeant “that they had to make life as difficult as possible for the claimant and to get him out of the organisation or to get him to resign as he was intending to marry a Catholic”.
The tribunal also reported that aside from the derogatory comments about Mr Murphy’s wife other bigoted remarks were made by staff members, including queries as to why he was dating someone from south Armagh, and how could he be trusted by his colleagues.
Mr Murphy joined the RUC as a civilian photographer in 1998 and remained in that post when in November 2001 it became the PSNI. It was in 2001 that his difficulties became manifest, according to the tribunal, which was when he became engaged.
The PSNI also told his wife, whom he married in November 2001, that he was a “lunatic”. They also told her father that he was a danger to her daughter.
In early December 2001 Mr Murphy and his new wife were warned by special branch that Mr Murphy’s life was “under an immediate and imminent threat” from unionist paramilitaries. He was later told this information might have been leaked from Knocknagoney PSNI station.
Eventually, Mr Murphy was forced to take sick leave because of general illness, including panic attacks. He was formally dismissed, without a proper disciplinary hearing.
But the PSNI has said it will be appealing the judgement and has claimed it had no knowledge of the hearing.