Northern Ireland

Trainee policewoman appeals discharge after injury

A trainee policewoman badly injured just six months before the end of her probationary period has begun a High Court action to challenge her discharge from the PSNI.

The court heard that Gillian Dixon had her shoulder shattered when the car she was travelling in crashed into a traffic sign as it was responding to a 999 emergency call.

The crash happened on the Culmore Road in Londonderry in April 2008.

Ms Dixon is appealing for the court to overturn Chief Constable Matt Baggott's decision to discharge her from the force.

The accident caused extensive damage to her nerves which has impaired the movement of her left arm.

She also had surgery to replace her shattered shoulder and suffers from nightmares and sleep disturbances.

Ms Dixon initially returned to work in December 2008 despite having been declared medically unfit for duty.

A year and a half later, in June 2010, an assistant chief constable decided to discharge her.

Minimum standards

She appealed to the chief constable who she described as "very sympathetic".

However, he upheld the original decision to discharge her.

"The chief constable said that he had to act in accordance with the legislation and do what the Policing Board would want him to do," she said.

"He stated that the Policing Board would not be happy at the Chief Constable paying police wages to someone doing a desk job, and that eventually there would be no desk jobs, that all such posts were being civilianised."

After being discharged, Ms Dixon was paid an extra three months salary.

Lawyers for Ms Dixon argued that decision had been based on unlawful delegation.

They also argued that former Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde had promised officers injured in the line of duty would not be involuntarily discharged.

Ms Dixon, who has also launched a separate action for damages, said: "I am devastated that a serious injury received in the course of my duty as a police officer has led to my discharge from the PSNI in circumstances where no fault can be attributed to me."

Peter Coll, barrister for the PSNI, stressed that medical opinion showed Ms Dixon could not meet the minimum standards for probationer officers.

He told the court that Ms Dixon has been offered a civilian support post within the PSNI.

Judgment was reserved on her application for leave to seek a judicial review.