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‘Bullied by a Boys’ Club, betrayed by my force’: Victim of Moray police officer hits out at senior management

Gemma MacRae at her home in Norway.
Gemma MacRae at her home in Norway.

A police whistleblower who exposed a culture of misogyny and bullying in her Moray station today breaks her silence to accuse senior officers of failing her.

Victim Gemma MacRae has accused Police Scotland of failing to tackle a systemic culture of sexism.

She spoke out after a former colleague was convicted of sexually assaulting her, almost five years after she reported him to bosses.

Ms MacRae, 33, who had to quit the national force and now lives in Norway, waived her right to anonymity, in an interview with our sister newspaper The Sunday Post.

‘Workplace culture stained by sexism, bullying and misogyny’

She accuses senior officers of failing to properly investigate complaints against a group of male colleagues at a station in Moray, which a number of female officers blamed for a “boys’ club” workplace culture stained by sexism, bullying and misogyny.

It took three years for almost 20 allegations against officers stationed at Forres – the so-called Moray Boys’ Club – to be investigated before being dismissed by prosecutors.

As revealed exclusively in the Press and Journal on Friday, only one allegation – that constable Scott Gallop, 54, sexually assaulted Ms MacRae – was taken to court.

Gallop was convicted at Elgin Sheriff Court on August 31 of one charge of sexual assault against Ms MacRae. He will be sentenced on September 29.

Forres Police Station. Picture by Gordon Lennox.

He had been allowed to continue working for almost a year after being accused before leaving the force with his pension intact.

Ms MacRae, a former constable, told The Sunday Post that senior officers failed to take her claims of bullying and abuse seriously and had betrayed her and every women officer on the force.

She remains dismayed at being forced to give up her career, only months after finishing her probationary period.

Ms MacRae said her experience made a “mockery of the public statements of condemnation of misogyny and bullying made by the chief constable and other senior officers,” adding: “If graduating from Tulliallan in 2015 was the proudest day of my life, being forced to leave my dream job was the saddest.

‘I became a target’

“From the moment I found the courage to report what was happening, I became a target. No one in a position of authority wanted to know. They turned away. I was abandoned, betrayed.”

Ms MacRae, originally from Invergarry, was initially delighted to be stationed at Forres but within two years her dream posting had turned into a nightmare when a live-in relationship with a fellow police officer fell apart amid allegations of domestic abuse.

For the first time in my life, I felt I could no longer trust my colleagues. I no longer felt safe.”

She was unprepared for male colleagues turning on her when she reported her partner.

She said: “I was delighted to serve in Forres and I quickly fell for another officer and we moved in together.

“I truly felt part of the police family, we all socialised and got to know each other. It was wonderful until my relationship with my partner became unsustainable because of his behaviour. I had no option but to report what had been happening.”

No support

She claimed her partner had abused her and the matter was reported to two Chief Inspectors but as the weeks and months passed with no further contact and no action from senior officers, she struggled to cope.

She said: “I had no support and was horrified to realise what I’d reported quickly became common knowledge. Several senior officers who knew of the reports played football in the same team as my ex.

“That’s when the bullying started. I was sent a funeral cross on one occasion and, on another, a senior officer mocked me for having taken time off because the strain was making me ill, tapping his head and asking if I was alright now, in a clear reference to whether I was mentally ill or not. It was distasteful and upsetting.

Paths in Roseisle woods leading to Lossiemouth beach. Supplied by Google Maps.

“The worst incident came when I was told to get into a police van very late at night as we were going on a job.

“The van stopped in the middle of an isolated forest at Roseisle. I was ordered out, only for the van to speed off and leave me, terrified and alone in pitch darkness, not knowing what was happening.”

‘I thought he was being kind’

She was in the dark for almost half an hour before the van finally returned to pick her up, the men laughing and taunting her on the way back to the station.

She said: “They had clearly decided to reach me a lesson for daring to report one of their friends. The incident itself was horrible enough, but it also made me realise how vulnerable I was.

“For the first time in my life, I felt I could no longer trust my colleagues. I no longer felt safe.”

Herbert Scott Gallop is pictured outside Elgin Sheriff Court.

Gallop, who was almost twice her age, pretended to comfort her before touching her inappropriately on her bottom and elsewhere despite being told to stop.

Ms MacRae said: “At first I thought he was just being kind. He knew I’d just suffered a traumatic break-up. I viewed him as a father figure as we had been partnered on jobs. I thought I could trust him when he started telling me about his own problems. When he began touching me inappropriately, I was horrified.

“I told him to stop and he quickly realised he’d overstepped. He apologised profusely, and insisted he was depressed and feeling suicidal. I felt sorry for him, so I didn’t report it immediately, hoping he would get the message.

“But when he came to my home, ostensibly to check on how I was, the inappropriate touching continued. He’d send me sexually explicit messages which were disturbing. I had no choice but to make an official complaint.”

How could they think it was safe sending him out to other extremely vulnerable women such as victims of domestic abuse or sexual crimes?”

Gallop sent her messages detailing sexual fantasies as well as proclamations of love. A complaint was lodged on February 7, 2018, but Gallop was allowed to continue working.

She said: “All through that time, I understand Gallop had been going out on jobs, dealing with the public, and nobody considered suspending him. Senior officers knew about the allegations I had made against Gallop. How could they think it was safe sending him out to other extremely vulnerable women such as victims of domestic abuse or sexual crimes?”

More than a year before watchdog investigated complaint

Seven months later, after she demanded to know why no action was being taken, professional standards officers finally contacted her.

She said: “The first thing they said was that the case wouldn’t be going anywhere. I was shocked. I had evidence, letters from Gallop apologising for his behaviour, detailing what he had done.

“I asked if they had interviewed Gallop, and they said they hadn’t. As the months dragged on, and with no official action being taken against him, Gallop began stalking me, driving past my house at all hours. I felt like a sitting target, trapped and fearful.”

As her nightmare continued and she went off sick with stress, Gallop was allowed to retire at the end of 2018 after almost 22 years’ service.

It took the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) watchdog almost a year and a half to investigate her complaint which included domestic abuse allegations against her former partner, allegations of sexual assault by Gallop, and other instances of bullying and misogyny.

The incidents included a female officer in the late stages of pregnancy allegedly being locked in a first-floor room inside Forres police station, and having to flee via a fire escape. Another female constable also claimed she was placed in a state of fear and alarm by the same male colleagues.

Others who behaved appallingly are still serving officers, dealing with the public.”

Prosecutors said the sexual assault allegation would proceed, but added: “The remaining allegations which were reported to us were fully considered.

“The view was reached that the conduct either did not meet the standard of criminal behaviour or that whilst it did meet the standard of criminal behaviour, there was insufficient evidence.”

All the other officers who faced allegations of bullying and misogynistic behaviour have remained in post with no action taken against them.

Ms MacRae said: “It is lamentable to me that Gallop was the only one to face the consequences of his behaviour. Others who behaved appallingly are still serving officers, dealing with the public.

“It saddens me that I have lost the career I loved, and a female officer who supported me has suffered similar mistreatment and bullying.

“Despite all the rhetoric from the Chief Constable and his senior officers, nothing has changed. I never set out to become a whistleblower. I only spoke out after I finally felt I had no choice but to take matters further and reported everything.”

Gallop’s conduct fell far below high standards

Police Scotland said the force had fully assisted the investigation into all allegations made against officers.

Chief Superintendent Catriona Henderson said: “We understand the courage it takes to report sexual assault and the additional challenges victims face when the offender is a police officer.

“Scott Gallop’s conduct fell far below the high standards of professional behaviour the public rightly expects of a police officer.

“There is no legal basis to prevent an officer from resigning or retiring. Had Scott Gallop remained a serving officer, these circumstances would now be considered for the purposes of gross misconduct.

“I hope this conviction brings some measure of comfort to his victim.”

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