Former Chief Special Officer Tom Haye, who has 30 years volunteering experience, was dismissed by Hampshire Constabulary in February 2021 after he was found guilty of gross misconduct relating to equality and diversity after sending the message.
Rachel Crasnow QC, chairwoman of the Police Appeals Tribunal, told the remote hearing that Mr Haye had sent the message in 2018 after ‘he and others had been victims of rural crimes’.
She said: ‘The appellant accepted he sent the message but argued it amounted to misconduct only.’
Announcing her decision, Ms Crasnow said: ‘The appeal will fail. We have reached the view that we are not entitled to interfere with the chief constable’s decision.
‘This is because the chief constable reached a reasonable decision taking into account that this was a single incident.
‘She didn’t hear evidence from the appellant that his use of language was a slip or accident nor did she hear submissions about whether the appellant had a racist mindset.’
Charles Apthorp, representing the force, said: ‘The use of this type of language is utterly inappropriate and casts a very long shadow over the reputation of Hampshire Constabulary.’
He added that to allow Mr Haye to continue in his role would ‘send a message that it’s acceptable in a senior level of management to use racist language in Hampshire Constabulary’.
Edmund Gritt, representing Mr Haye, argued that his client should not have been dismissed unless it had been proven that the use of the word was not just an ‘aberration’ and that he actually had a ‘racist mindset’.
Mr Gritt said that Mr Haye’s use of the word had not been ‘deliberate’, but had been ‘reckless and unconscious’.
He added that Mr Haye had given ‘thousands of hours’ of unpaid work by volunteering as a special officer for 30 years.
He said: ‘If he has a racist mindset the public would demand dismissal whether he was a chief officer or a special constable.
‘But if they know the fact that this is only a one-off aberration of a man who doesn’t have a racist mindset, a single use of the word and there is nothing concerning about his mindset, then the public would not expect dismissal and they must be concerned that dismissal is an unnecessary and harsh outcome.”
He added: ‘He is not looking to overturn dismissal for paid office, that is not why he is here, he is seeking to overturn dismissal to retain the privilege he has of serving the people of Hampshire and nationally as well, to do so as a volunteer, to give his own free time.’
The hearing was told that Mr Haye had argued that he accepted that the use of the word could be interpreted as ‘discriminatory but not racist’.
He had argued at the original discriminatory hearing that he meant to refer to ‘thieves as pikeys, not travellers’.