The Metropolitan police is taking a former senior officer to court, claiming her allegations of racism and sexism broke an agreement meant to gag her from speaking out, the Guardian has learned.
The Met says former chief superintendent Parm Sandhu must pay £60,000 plus interest after breaking a confidentiality agreement, also known as a non-disclosure agreement.
The legal action by Britain’s biggest police force led to claims from one former Met chief that it is abusing taxpayers’ money and its power to bury uncomfortable allegations of discrimination. A Met solicitor has revealed the use of gagging or non-disclosure agreements in a sworn statement to the court, seen by the Guardian.
The legal document is a particulars of claim issued on behalf of the commissioner of the Met, Sir Stephen House. He took temporary charge after Cressida Dick resigned in February amid scandals about her alleged failure to tackle misogyny and racism among her officers.
Sandhu left the Met after 30 years, alleging discrimination. The force settled her employment tribunal claim in 2020 and paid her £120,000 in total.
Sandhu wrote a book about her experiences in the police and spoke out in media interviews after the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Met officer in March 2021. The Met, in the documents lodged with the Central London county court, alleges that the book breaches the agreement.
The legal claim before the court is made by Nicholas Heavey, from the Met’s directorate of legal services. In the signed document, he says he is entitled to represent the Met and its commissioner, who is named as the claimant. The Met is seeking £60,000 plus 8% interest.
The gagging clause forbade Sandhu from making “disparaging” or “derogatory” comments about the Met commissioner, or about the force itself. It also forbade Sandhu from discussing the discrimination she alleged she suffered during her service in the Met.
The Met, in the court document, said Sandhu consulted a lawyer and agreed to the confidentiality clause. Then, when she was writing the book, she agreed to repay £60,000 of the total settlement to avoid the Met seeking to injunct publication with a court order.
The Met goes on to say because that money has not been repaid, Britain’s biggest force will sue.
In the sworn particulars of the claim, the Met highlights advertising used to sell the book from Amazon.
It says Sandhu’s book reveals “incidents of racial and gender discrimination” and describes how she took a stand when she was falsely accused of wrongdoing.
The Amazon blurb, cited by the Met to the court, reads: “Parm’s time on the force was chequered throughout with incidents of racial and gender discrimination … After deciding to make a stand, she found herself facing a spurious charge of gross misconduct. Black and Blue tells her shocking story and of her quest for justice in her police work and for herself.”
In their court document, the Met lawyers say: “Publication of such material would have amounted to a breach of the confidentiality agreement owed by the defendant under the settlement agreement.”
A spokesperson for the Met declined to comment or answer questions.
The Guardian has been tracking the row between the Met and Sandhu for months. Earlier this year the Met was asked about use of NDAs. In an email response, it said: “No officer, when they leave the Met, whether they are dismissed or not, is asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement.”
The same response was given by a spokesperson for the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, earlier this year. He also has oversight for the force as the police and crime commissioner for London.
After the new revelations were put to the mayor, a spokesperson said: “It is vital that Met staff and officers have the confidence to come forward and report any discrimination or harassment they suffer or are witness to.
“The Mayor’s office for policing and crime is seeking information from the Metropolitan Police Service regarding their future use of settlement agreements, or confidentiality clauses, to ensure that officers are not unfairly silenced.”
Employment lawyer Makbool Javaid said: “A confidentiality clause is an NDA. The purpose is that you are bound, by whatever is stated in the agreement, not to disclose certain things.”
Former Met chief Brian Paddick, who now sits in the House of Lords for the Liberal Democrats, said: “It is clearly in the public interest and in the interest of the Met that evidence of racism and sexism is put into the public domain, so that lessons can be learned. The last thing the Met should be doing is trying to gag whistleblowers.”