Sacked fireman who said Grenfell Tower ‘full of immigrants’ WINS £15,000 at tribunal

The tribunal questioned the wording and validity of the charges levelled against Lee Glynn and raised concerns about the investigation into him and the disciplinary process that followed

Lee Glyde has won £15,000 in compensation
Lee Glyde has won £15,000 in compensation

A senior fireman who was sacked for racism after telling colleagues Grenfell Tower was “full of immigrants” has won almost almost £15,000 in compensation.

Watch Manager Lee Glyde was sacked following complaints over a series of allegedly offensive remarks.

In addition to the comment about the 2017 blaze that claimed the lives of 72 people he was also accused of saying “I bet they just shit themselves” when a military helicopter flew over a car supposedly carrying Asian passengers.

He was also heard talking about “restraining Muslims” and telling colleagues “I hope if I ordered any one of you, you’d run over the terrorist with the truck”.

Mr Glyde even described his relationship with one of his former bosses as “being treated worse than Jews in a concentration camp”.

His bosses at Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service deemed all of these comments as racist and fired the firefighter for gross misconduct after almost 20 years’ service.

But an employment tribunal has found he was unfairly dismissed and awarded him £14,915.52 in compensation.

The tribunal ruled that while some of the comments were “socially inept” they were not racist.

Former watch manager of Salisbury Fire Station, Lee Glyde


Salisbury Journal/Solent News)

It also questioned the wording and validity of the charges levelled against him, and raised concerns about the investigation into him and the disciplinary process that followed.

The hearing in Southampton, Hants, was told that Mr Glyde was Watch Manager at Salisbury Fire Station, Wilts, when an investigation into him about potentially offensive comments was launched in 2018.

The tribunal heard that following the Grenfell disaster in June 2017 he had taken part in a discussion with colleagues about it.

He explained his brother is a Health and Safety Inspector in London and had asked him whether he had inspected the tower block.

He said his brother replied stating it was not in his area but had commented “it would be full of quite a few immigrants”. Mr Glyde said he passed this comment on to his colleagues.

Investigators were told by four of his colleagues that Mr Glyde mentioned his brother when making the statement, with one even stressing this was not a remark made in a derogatory way.

However, one said Mr Glyde had stated: “It was probably just full of immigrants anyway.” This was the wording used in the charge subsequently made against him, the tribunal heard.

Three colleagues also recalled him saying during a course in October 2017 that when the threat level of terrorism is severe they would be allowed to go up to Muslims and “restrain them”.

Salisbury Fire Station


Salisbury Journal/Solent News)

Another remark reported to Mr Graham was Mr Glyde reportedly saying “I bet they have just shit themselves” or words to that effect while sat in a fire engine at traffic lights and seeing a military helicopter fly over a car carrying Asian passengers.

However, the colleagues could not agree on how many people were sat in the car or confirm if they were an ethnic minority.

One firefighter, who had joined the team after spending some time stationed in Birmingham, told Mr Graham that on at least three occasions Mr Glyde had “asked her questions about mosques, the ethnic minorities who lived where she had worked in Birmingham, whether the area had been placed under any surveillance and the relationship between the local Fire Service and Muslims in this area”.

Mr Glyde also accepted he had described the previous Station Manager as treating his colleagues worse than Jews in a concentration camp.

After the investigation was launched in January 2018, Mr Glyde signed himself off work due to stress and was suspended shortly after.

He was sacked in May 2019 after being found guilty of gross misconduct.

However, the tribunal found this decision to be unfair.

“For a comment to be racist it would need to be hostile or derogatory towards a certain nationality or ethnic minorities or in terms from which an antipathy or animosity to them could be inferred,” the panel found.

“[Mr Glyde] was not accused of making any overtly discriminatory, insulting or hostile remarks towards any race or ethnic minority.”

Of the Grenfell remark, Employment Judge Max Craft noted that the full comment he was accused of making was disputed by Mr Glyde.

“The inclusion of the words ‘just’ and ‘anyway’ change what [Mr Glyde] has said was a statement of fact to a derogatory remark from which it could be inferred he had a callous and uncaring attitude towards the residents of the Tower who were immigrants,” he said.

There was conflicting evidence about the comment about the Asian family and the helicopter, the tribunal found.

The tribunal heard Mr Glyde accepted he had made a further comment about running over a terrorist to two of his colleagues.

He said he made this comment in the context of a number of terrorist incidents that had recently occurred and claimed “it was not directed at any particular race or ethnic minority but at terrorists”.

Judge Craft said: “[Mr Glyde] made no reference to any race or ethnic minority in making the remark. He referred to terrorists. A reasonable employer acting reasonably would not have found that to be a racist comment.”

Regarding the concentration camp comparison, the tribunal judge said it was “inappropriate” but not racist.

“The fact that a remark is immature and socially inept does not make it discriminatory or racist,” he said.

“However a reasonable employer acting reasonably would not have concluded it demonstrated any animosity or antipathy towards Jews. It could not have been considered a racist comment for that reason.”

The tribunal also concluded the fire service should have considered mitigating factors – such as his almost 20 years of previously unblemished service and the “difficult domestic circumstances” he was going through at the time – more thoroughly before firing him.

If they had, it said, then “dismissal would not [have fallen] into a range of reasonable options available to it to deal with these issues”.

A separate claim of disability discrimination was dismissed.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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