London Fire Brigade racism and misogyny report leads to UK-wide probe call

The top lawyer who found the London Fire Brigade institutionally racist and misogynistic has called for a similar investigation into other public bodies.

Former chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal said failings uncovered in an independent review into the service could be widespread across dozens of organisations nationwide.

His probe highlighted women being groped and their helmets filled with urine, and a Black man having a noose put over his locker.

Female staff were sent explicit photos by male colleagues and Muslims were taunted about their faith and had bacon put in their food.

Now Mr Afzal says he has been approached by employees within the police, the BBC and the NHS calling for similar investigations. He warned: “My personal view is there ought to be a national inquiry across the board in terms of misogyny particularly and racism in workforces and institutions we all pay for.”

London Fire Brigade Chief Commissioner Andy Roe said he accepts “in totality” Mr Azfal’s findings in the report detailing accounts from 2,000 firefighters.

He said the findings were “heartbreaking”, adding: “The examples of bullying, harassment, sexism, racism and general behaviour are undeniable and frankly shocking.”

The review heard from gay staff shunned by colleagues, with one told: “I’m not going into a fire with you in case you try it on.”

There were also accounts of staff on home fire safety visits going through women’s underwear drawers and looking for sex toys.

A female firefighter said the threshold for bullying was so high “you’d have to gouge someone’s eyes out to get sacked”.

Mr Afzal, once chief crown prosecutor for the North West, described the findings as a “cancer at the heart of a vital British institution” and said he hoped it would mark a “turning point” for the LFB.

He told Radio 4 other brigades had approached him. Gareth Cook of the Fire Brigades Union said elements of the report confirm fears the FBU has raised over many years.

He added that the union has organised sections for Black and ethnic minority, female and LGBT members “because of discrimination, harassment and inequality”. Mr Azfal’s report had 21 recommendations for the LFB.

Employee complaints will be handled by an external firm looking at cases dating back five years.

Firefighters who are found to have bullied or been discriminatory will face the sack.

Mr Roe commissioned the review after the suicide of Black trainee Jaden Matthew Francois-Esprit, 21, who claimed he was bullied.