Civilian worker settles PSNI harassment case

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A civilian employee has settled her legal action against the PSNI over its handling of alleged sexual harassment at work.

Sinead Hampson’s barrister confirmed the confidential resolution reached following negotiations at the High Court in Belfast.

The lawsuit is to be stayed, with her costs paid by the police service as part of the terms. No further details were disclosed.

Ms Hampson, 37, was seeking damages amid claims that unwanted sexualised touching, harassment and bullying were “brushed under the carpet” amid misogyny and male chauvinism within the force.

At the start of the case on Wednesday a judge was told three other women made allegations of inappropriate behaviour against the same detective, including incidents of being slapped on the backside and told to bend over for a spanking.

But Ms Hampson, an administrative assistant, was the only one of the four to make a formal complaint.

The alleged contact occurred at stations in Londonderry between 2009 and 2012.

It was claimed that Detective Constable Ronan Sharkey repeatedly put his hands on her shoulders during incidents in work.

Mr Sharkey, since promoted to sergeant, denies her claims and those made by the other women. He never faced any prosecution.

But the court heard an internal disciplinary process resulted in a finding that he breached Ms Hampson’s integrity by placing his hand on her hip.

He was cautioned and fined £250.

Opening Ms Hampson’s case, Liam McCollum QC had argued that physical contact from a serving police officer 20 years older than her was completely inappropriate.

Although police chiefs were said to have separated the detective from his client, he said that wasn’t enough.

The barrister insisted that any so-called “touchy feely” behaviour has no place in the workplace.

The PSNI’s handling of the allegations, he contended, amounted to “a complete dereliction of the duty and obligation of a major employer in the 21st century”.

Branding the force’s response as “utterly deplorable, appalling”, Mr McCollum claimed it amounted to male chauvinism around women being tolerated or brushed under the carpet.

What happened within that branch of the police amounted to sexism or misogyny, the court heard.

The case was set to run for five days, with Ms Hampson due to give evidence after her recorded interviews were played.

But out of court negotiations instead led to the settlement being reached.

Asking Mr Justice Burgess to stay the action, Mr McCollum said: “I’m glad to say we have been able to resolve our differences.”

Ms Hampson, who attended with relatives, declined to comment as she left court.