Firemen demoted and fined for shining torch on gay foursome in the bushes
Last updated at 13:49pm on 3rd October 2007
Four firefighters were reprimanded and heavily fined after disturbing an illegal outdoor gay sex romp - because the men accused them of being homophobic.
The crew were travelling past a notorious common popular with gay men and "doggers" when they shone their torches from the engine into bushes.
It is claimed they interrupted four men involved in a gay sex act.
Avon Fire and Rescue Service say they take allegations of homophobia 'very seriously'
One man later contacted AIDS charity the Terrence Higgins Trust, who advised him to launch a formal complaint.
The firefighters were suspended on full pay during a three month investigation. Two were fined up to £1,000, one was demoted in rank and the other given a written warning.
They have all been ordered to attend an equality course and the fines will be donated to the a nominated gay-rights charity.
One being mooted is the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) although no final decision has been made.
Bristol has a large Jamaican community.
The four man crew have also been transferred to other stations.
It is claimed the complainant had been pleasuring himself in front a group of three men when they were disturbed.
He is now said to be "happy" at the outcome of the disciplinaries but will not face any police investigation into what he and the other men were doing in the area.
The firefighters were charged with bringing the service into disrepute and with the misuse of fire equipment as their actions were deemed homophobic.
The firemen - formerly members of Avon Fire Service's Blue Watch at Avonmouth station in Bristol - stumbled upon the session near Circular Road on the Downs, in Bristol.
The firemen stumbled upon the session near Circular Road on the Downs, in Bristol.
They have been gagged by bosses and banned from talking - even with colleagues - about the incident, which happened at about 10.30pm on June 27.
One fireman said: "This is a complete farce. All four officers have been let down by their senior officers when they needed their support the most.
"They have been treated as the criminals in this case and it has been completely forgotten that they witnessed criminal activity occurring in a public place."
Another firefighter said: "The service needs to take a long hard look at how it has dealt with these allegations.
"There a lot of firefighters in Avon who feel the four involved have been treated very unfairly so the service can be seen as being politically correct."
The men had been returning to Avonmouth Fire Station from Bristol's main Temple Fire Station, where they had been called in to cover for other firefighters answering 999 calls.
The four, who do not want be named, will be forced to attend a two-day equality conference being held at Holland House Hotel, near St Mary Redcliffe Church next week.
Avon Fire and Rescue Service has invited delegates from around the world and firefighters from across the UK to attend the debate, entitled "Lesbians, Gays, Bi-sexuals and Transgender Equality in the Fire Service - an absolute taboo?"
Fire chief were alerted to the incident by the Terrance Higgins Trust, which has supported the man allegedly seen performing the sex act.
Simon Nelson, the charity's acting regional manager, said: "We don't support or condone sex in public places, or dogging.
"We act as a third party for any member of the public who feels they have been intimidated against or have been the victim of a hate crime or harassment.
"The member of the public simply wanted to know why the fire service was on the Downs at that time of day. We passed on that complaint.
"We work very closely with the police, but in this case the complainant asked us not to report this incident to the police."
The Fire Brigade Union represented the officers at their disciplinary hearing at Lansdown fire headquarters, which lasted for more than 12 hours.
Chris Jackson, a spokesman for the FBU's Avon branch, said: "The person who made the complaint was happy with the way it was dealt with.
"I am not at liberty to discuss anymore detail about this incident or talk about the disciplinary proceedings."
The police confirmed they had not been made aware of the incident.
A spokesman for Avon and Somerset police said: "It is an offence to commit an act which is lewd, obscene or disgusting in a public place which is capable of outraging public decency.
"If any complaint is made in relation to such an incident it would be investigated thoroughly and, where appropriate, action would be taken to arrest any offender."
Chief Fire Officer with Avon Fire and Rescue Service Kevin Pearson said any allegations of racism or homophobia were taken very seriously.
He said: "There was no justifiable reason for that appliance to be in that location at that time.
"They should not have been there and there was no operational justification for their actions.
"We received a complaint about the behaviour of our staff and a full inquiry was conducted as a consequence.
"Since its completion we have gone back to the complainant and they are satisfied with the actions taken by Avon Fire and Rescue Service.
"Various people may have different views but the fact of the matter for us are we had a complaint, we investigated and the crew were found to be in breech of our internal policies.
"Our investigation revealed no evidence of criminal conduct by members of the public or our staff."
Mr Pearson said no final charity had been identified and donations had not yet been handed over as several were being considered.
No one from J-FLAG was available for comment.
You just can't make this shit up.
This post has been edited by Matt: 03 October 2007 - 09:27 AM