Two Metropolitan Police firearms officers who were sent home from COP26 in Glasgow over joke Twitter pictures have lost a legal claim that they were discriminated against for being English.
Sergeant Richard Lovelock and PC Jonathan Sayers were both dispatched back to London under a cloud during the climate summit of world leaders in November 2021.
Images had been posted on social media of a puppet – Police Dog Swoop – posing on an officer’s shoulder, looking through the telescopic sight of a sniper rifle, and in the gun’s cross hairs.
After a hasty investigation by top police bosses, Lovelock, Sayers and a third officer were removed from the police ring of steel which had been put around COP26 – with world leaders including President Joe Biden, King Charles, and Boris Johnson in attendance.
An employment tribunal has now concluded that Lovelock and Sayers – both experienced Met firearms officers – had been harshly treated, as both denied posting the images or even using Twitter itself.
However their claims that they had been discriminated against because they are English were dismissed.
Employment Judge Tim Adkin said in the ruling that Scottish police chiefs took an “operational decision” to send home the officers before disciplinary processes had been considered.
He said: “There is no evidence that the nationality of the two claimants was categorically known to the two senior officers, nor any evidence that their nationality was discussed.”
The incident, which was later leaked to national newspapers, started when images of the puppet – modelled popular children’s TV character Sooty’s best friend Sweep – were posted on November 3, 2021 on an account named “Scottish Police Dog Memorial” and started to gain attention.
“The first image is the view from behind a firearms officer with a rifle”, wrote the judge. “The puppet “Swoop” has a paw on his shoulder.
“The second image shows the puppet Swoop apparently looking through the telescopic site of the rifle on a tripod pointing outward.
“The third picture shows Swoop seen at a distance in the crosshairs of what appears to be a rifle telescopic sight. Swoop is sitting on the bonnet of a police vehicle.”
The tribunal found senior officers wrongly believed that covert sniper positions had been blown with the images, as a hasty attempt was underway to get the Twitter post deleted.
Lovelock and Sayers, who had been deployed to protect delegates at the Hilton Garden Hotel in Glasgow, were both woken up in the middle of the night in their hotel rooms.
Both denied involvement in the Twitter post, but they were both sent home alongside a third Met officer – Sergeant Duncan Clarke – who “took full responsibility” for the incident.
“He had thought it was funny and harmless and would be enjoyed by others. He sincerely apologised”, recorded the tribunal.
Senior officers within Police Scotland found Lovelock and Sayers “guilty by association” with Clarke, while the Met agreed to their return to London with their reputations on the line.
“Given the circumstances of the claimants being woken in the early hours of the morning, and sent back to London with something of a question mark over their conduct, we entirely understand why both claimants feel that they have been the subject of an injustice”, said Judge Adkin.
“They felt embarrassed and that they felt that a lot of officers knew about this situation. They also felt embarrassed on return to the Metropolitan Police and emphasise the knock-on effect on themselves and also domestic arrangements.
“There is also the press reports which are critical of the conduct of the Metropolitan Police officers, although they are not individually named. We imagine this can only have stoked the internal rumour mill.”
However the tribunal dismissed claims that the officers brought against Police Scotland and the Met Police for alleged discrimination based on their race or sex.
The tribunal heard Lovelock was made a Sergeant in 2009 and joined the Met’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command as a firearms officer in 2018.
PC Sayers joined the Met’s Royalty and Specialist Protection Comment in 2014.
Both were among the nationwide deployment of around 10,000 police officers to the two-week climate summit.
The posts featuring Police Dog Swoop and the sniper were deleted from an account said to be run by a man named only as “Andy”.
Neither Lovelock nor Sayers faced misconduct proceedings as a result of the incident.