‘Had I lied on my interview form and said I was bisexual, there’s a strong possibility I would be working for Cheshire Police now’
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A potential police recruit who was rejected from a force because he is white, male and heterosexual has said he believes many other men may have been similarly discriminated against.
An employment tribunal found Cheshire Police was guilty of discrimination against Matthew Furlong on the grounds of sexual orientation, race and gender after his application to join
The 25-year-old particle physics graduate, who applied to be a constable in 2017, discovered he had been turned down because the force needed more diverse candidates.
“It has completely shattered my confidence in the police force recruitment system,” he said.
“The irony of the whole thing is that throughout the whole process I was required to demonstrate my honesty and integrity and they have completely undermined that.
“Had I lied on my interview form and said I was bisexual, for instance, there’s a strong possibility I would be working for Cheshire Police now based on a lie.
Mr Furlong – whose father has served the same force for more than 20 years – said he had been on cloud nine after being told he could not have done more during his interview.
But he said he was devastated to learn he had lost out to other candidates. He was told in feedback there were not enough vacancies for all 127 people who had passed the interview stage.
At last week’s tribunal in Liverpool, Judge Clare Grundy found the force had set the pass threshold “artificially low” and candidates were awarded a simple pass or fail, which meant large swathes of potential recruits were deemed equal when, in reality, some were much more suited to the role than others.
Mr Furlong said: “I am not the only person who has been affected by this. There are many other white heterosexual males who undoubtedly left the whole interview process with the impression that they weren’t good enough when in fact many were.
“In addition, I worry for the candidates who have been appointed as they may question whether they were appointed based on merit or whether they simply had a particular protected characteristic.”
He said he was no longer sure if he wanted to achieve his lifelong ambition of joining the police.
“I am delighted the tribunal found in my favour and I hope it will prevent the same thing from happening again, but I don’t know what I want to do now,” Mr Furlong said.
“If I applied again and did get in I would worry that the same issues could arise if I went for a promotion. It has certainly made it very difficult for me to continue down that path.”
His lawyers said his case was the first of its kind in the UK.
The employment tribunal ruled that the force used positive action – where employers take steps to recruit certain groups of people – but in a discriminatory way.
It said that while positive action could be used to boost diversity, it should only be applied to distinguish between candidates who were all equally well qualified for a role.
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Jennifer Ainscough, an employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said: “This is an incredibly important ruling and something all employers need to be aware of in the future when using positive action.
“They must be prepared to show that their recruitment process is lawful or risk leaving themselves open to similar claims, in which this case would almost certainly be relied upon.”
A spokesman for Cheshire Police said: “We have been notified of the outcome of the tribunal and will review the findings over the coming days.”
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