Bullying, porn and racism: CornwallLive reveals reason behind dismissal of firefighters

Details of why a number of firefighters in Cornwall were sacked have been made public after an investigation by CornwallLive.

Bullying, racism and pornography are some of the reasons why five firefighters were sacked by Cornwall Council, CornwallLive reported.

Their so-called banter included pictures of female breasts, vaginas as well as sex toys and other explicit images and racist language among messages from at least two WhatsApp groups set up by the crews at Lostwithiel fire station, which became the subject of an 18-month disciplinary investigation by Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service and eventually led to the sacking of five firefighters.

Launched in October/November 2020 the misconduct inquiry into the firefighters’ behaviour was brought on after a junior member of the team and his then-partner finally snapped and decided to complain to the fire service bosses.

The partner learnt she was the subject of abusive comments aimed at the junior member of the team.

The messaging chat is understood to have originally been set up as a communication tool for all retained — part-time on-call — firefighters at Lostwithiel Community Fire Station to improve their operations, check who’s available on a particular week or weekend and assign jobs and tasks such as equipment checks or kit cleaning to various team members.

Some of the images shared in the group were used in CornwallLive’s report, but some were too explicit, the title told readers.

Audience and content director for CornwallLive, Edd Moore, said: “This was a long-running investigation by the CornwallLive team that lifted the lid on disgraceful bullying, racism and sexually explicit messages being shared in a WhatsApp group by firefighters in Cornwall.

“There was in fact a swell of support on social media for the firefighters themselves after they were sacked for misconduct. But thanks to reporter Olivier Vergnault’s tenacity in following this story we were able to expose the full details behind what happened and add the facts and context that social media simply cannot.

“Clearly this sort of behaviour is unacceptable in any workplace, emergency services or otherwise, and the public had a right to know who the real victims were.

“It was excellent work from Oli, the CornwallLive newsdesk and editor Jeff Reines to obtain the messages themselves, work with a whistleblower and make bold decisions over what to publish to bring the shocking nature of this behaviour to the public. This investigation has raised the profile of wider issues within the fire service in Cornwall and ought to play a part in real change.”

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