Fire chief left ‘shocked and horrified’ after two firemen were allowed to keep jobs despite one repeatedly exposing himself to female cleaner and another abusing girlfriend – as probe into the ‘culture’ of service is launched

  • South Wales Fire and Rescue Service to have independent review of its culture
  • One cleaner claimed a manager repeatedly exposed his erection to her at night
  • Another said her fireman partner kept his job after getting an assault conviction 

Two firemen who sexually harassed and abused their female co-workers were able to keep their jobs, an investigation has revealed – including a manager who repeatedly exposed himself to a cleaner and a firefighter who assaulted his girlfriend. 

South Wales Fire and Rescue Service is now facing an independent review following the revelations, which its chief Huw Jakeway today said left him ‘truly shocked and horrified’. 

In 2014, the service was the first in the world to ever be awarded ‘White Ribbon’ status by the domestic abuse charity of the same name, an accreditation which has been suspended following today’s news. 

One victim, Shirley, who works as cleaner at the Ely station in Cardiff, said Watch Manager John Morgan exposed himself to her on night shifts in a years-long campaign of harassment. 

One victim, Shirley (pictured), who works as cleaner at the Ely station in Cardiff, said Watch Manager John Morgan exposed himself to her on night shifts in a years-long campaign of harassment

She said she plucked up the courage to report him when his behaviour got progressively worse, to the point where she feared she would be raped. 

She told ITV News, who conducted the investigation, that he would regularly ‘strip off’ with his full erection on show, adding: ‘He was running up and down the corridor at one time naked. And he was getting closer and closer to me as he got more daring. 

‘I couldn’t get away from it. If I went one way, he’d find a way to find me and expose himself.’

Another victim, who has not waived her right to anonymity, was domestically abused by her fireman partner who also worked at the service. 

Despite his conviction for assault, he was allowed to continue working there for years before being dismissed over another misconduct allegation. 

His former partner told ITV News: ‘It’s just changed me. I used to be so bubbly and outgoing. I just don’t think he should be allowed to be in a place of safe haven for domestic violence victims when he’s a domestic violence aggressor…. How dare they.’ 

Chief Fire Officer of the service Mr Jakeway told ITV News he was ‘truly shocked and horrified’ by the reports. 

He added: ‘The strength and bravery of the victims to come forward and speak to yourselves in such an open and graphic manner….it was truly horrific for me and that is why I have moved to an independent review of our culture, a review of our discipline processes and a review of our historic discipline cases that we already heard. 

‘In the last 24 hours the person you named as an employee in the service has been suspended and is pending a disciplinary investigation.’

Another victim, who has not waived her right to anonymity, was domestically abused by her fireman partner who also worked at the service. Despite his conviction for assault, he was allowed to continue working there for years before being dismissed over another misconduct allegation (stock image)

Chief Fire Officer of the service Huw Jakeway (pictured) told ITV News he was ‘truly shocked and horrified’ by the reports as he vowed to launch an independent review 

He promised the investigation will ‘leave no stone unturned’ and said such harassment and abuse is ‘wholly unacceptable and certainly doesn’t fit with the values of the service and does not fit with the personal and professional I hold dear to my heart.’

He said he was ‘disappointed’ that the service had lost its white ribbon status, adding: ‘I totally understand why they done it in light of what I have seen, the horrific scenes I have seen and the graphic nature your complainants shared.’

The White Ribbon charity said in a statement: ‘White Ribbon are very concerned about the information that has been uncovered about South Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

‘White Ribbon Accredited organisations commit to an Action Plan with core criteria of strategic leadership, raising awareness, changing culture and ensuring men are engaged in ending male violence against women.

‘We have suspended South Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s Accreditation, pending a review. Our thoughts are with the victims, and with those who live in fear of abuse and violence.

‘White Ribbon UK advocates for safer cultures for women and girls throughout all our work, and we will continue to work towards all women and girls living without the fear of violence.’

Welsh Deputy Minister for Social Partnerships Hannah Blythyn MS said: ‘These allegations are disturbing and completely unacceptable. We have made clear time and time again that Wales will not tolerate any forms of violence against women, harassment or sexual abuse.

‘It is essential that there is a full and thorough independent investigation.’

In an earlier statement today, Mr Jakeway said he ‘welcomed the opportunity to apologise’ to ‘those affected by these events and to anyone that our Service has let down.’ 

He vowed to launch an independent review ‘of our culture, our discipline processes and historic cases where our employees have failed to uphold our high standards.’

He said that all matters of discipline ‘are taken extremely seriously and are considered in line with the Service’s established disciplinary procedure, which follows best practice set by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).’

He added: ‘Disciplinary cases are fully investigated and decisions are reached by an impartial disciplinary panel, following consideration of the full facts of each case.

‘South Wales Fire and Rescue Service is a Gold standard Investor in People employer and we were proud to be the first Fire and Rescue Service in the world to be an accredited White Ribbon organisation.

‘We will continue to work with White Ribbon to end abusive and misogynistic elements of male culture, to prevent violence against women and girls before it starts.

‘We have been an active participant in the annual White Ribbon 16 days of action and often invite domestic abuse survivors to talk with our staff on this sensitive issue. This year we also declared our 47 fire and rescue stations as Safe Havens, where anyone in imminent danger can attend for help.

‘We are working very hard to diversify our Service to be more representative of the communities we serve. We are proud that 7 out of 22 people who graduated as Wholetime Firefighters this month are women, which further demonstrates our commitment to inclusivity.’

It is not the only fire service to come under fresh scrutiny over their working environments in recent weeks.  

The chief of the London Fire Brigade Andy Roe (pictured) vowed to sack any ‘racist’ or ‘sexist’ firefighters after a bombshell report laid bare the scale of bullying, racism and misogyny in the service 

Late last month, the chief of the London Fire Brigade vowed to sack any ‘racist’ or ‘sexist’ firefighters after a bombshell report laid bare the scale of bullying, racism and misogyny in the service. 

Andy Roe said said the findings were ‘horrifying’ and that ‘public confidence and trust’ had been ‘betrayed’.

He said at a press conference: ‘Where we find people have behaved appallingly, we will dismiss them’, promising a zero-tolerance crackdown. 

It came after the 70-page LFB review led by lawyer Nazir Afzal revealed ‘stomach-turning’ stories that claim abuse and bullying are normalised in the emergency service.

In one case, a female firefighter had her helmet filled with urine, while in another example a Muslim firefighter was bullied because of his faith and had bacon put in his sandwich. 

Nazir Afzal, who led the damning report into the toxic culture inside the London Fire Brigade, said employees at the NHS, the BBC and police have also raised ‘serious concerns’ about the way they are treated.

An independent culture review of London Fire Brigade (LFB), led by Afzal – a former chief crown prosecutor for the North West – found ‘dangerous levels of ingrained prejudice against women’, while colleagues from minority backgrounds are ‘frequently the target of racist abuse’.

Now Mr Afzal called for a ‘national inquiry’ into other public bodies, saying he has been approached in the past 24 hours by several people who work for them.

Speaking at a briefing at the LFB headquarters in central London on November 24, he said: ‘There are members of five different police forces who have approached me and said similar concerns about their own forces, I won’t name them.

‘I’ve had approaches, it may shock, from the BBC and I’ve had approaches from the National Health Service.

‘They are pivotal to the British society, these organisations, and yet there are people within them that are seriously concerned about the way they’re being treated within their organisations.

‘I don’t know what to do. The BBC won’t ask me, the NHS won’t ask me. Somebody needs to ask the people who work in these organisations and policing.

‘I can assure you there are 43 police forces with problems and with serious concerns and yet you currently know only about two.

‘There needs to be a national inquiry, particularly in relation to misogyny, because this is a subject that hasn’t had the attention that it deserves.’

Mr Afzal said a national inquiry should focus on misogyny and racism across all sectors.

Lawyer Nazir Afzal, who led a damning report into a toxic culture inside London Fire Brigade said employees at the NHS, the BBC and police have also raised ‘serious concerns’ 

The report revealed ‘stomach-churning’ stories of abuse in the fire service. 

In one case, a female firefighter was left with post-traumatic stress disorder after her helmet was filled with urine.

Other examples of vile behaviour include a black employee finding a noose above his locker and a Muslim firefighter discovering a terrorism hotline sticker near his belongings. 

Another Muslim firefighter, bullied because of his faith, had bacon put in his sandwich by his colleagues. 

The report, seen by The Times, was commissioned after 21-year-old Jaden Francois-Esprit, a trainee at Wembley fire station, took his own life in August 2020.

Over a period of 10 months, a seven-strong team led by Mr Afzal gathered evidence of what people experienced in their working environment and the wider culture that supported this.

The review concluded that the service was institutionally misogynistic and racist.

‘Unless a toxic culture that allows bullying and abuse to be normalised is tackled then I fear that, like Jaden, other firefighters will tragically take their lives,’ Mr Afzalm said. 

In the past five years, six members of the brigade’s staff had taken their own lives.

The report also included harrowing accounts from women, who claimed to have been groped during training exercises.

One said: ‘The threshold for bullying is so high, you would have to gouge someone’s eyes out to get sacked. Everything else is seen as banter.’ 

More than 4,500 of the brigade’s 5,000 staff are firefighters, but just 425 are women and just over 500 are from ethnic minorities. London Fire Commissioner Andy Roe said the report was ‘very sobering’.

The 70-page review revealed ‘stomach-turning’ stories of abuse and bullying in the service

He added: ‘There is no place for discrimination, harassment and bullying in the brigade and from today it will be completely clear to all staff what behaviour isn’t acceptable and what the consequences will be.

‘I am deeply sorry for the harm that has been caused. I will be fully accountable for improving our culture and I fully accept all of the report’s 23 recommendations.

‘I want to ensure a safe, modern workplace for the dedicated, public-spirited people at the brigade who, like me, are horrified by what this review has uncovered.’

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