‘Bul­lies al­most drove me to sui­cide’

Tri­bunal: Wo­man claims bul­ly­ing nearly drove her to take life

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - FRONT PAGE - BY BEN HENDRY

A woman has told an em­ploy­ment tri­bunal how she con­tacted a Swiss sui­cide clinic fol­low­ing an al­leged cam­paign of abuse from her male col­leagues at a gov­ern­ment agency.

DeeAnne Fitzpatrick claimed that she was taped to a chair and gagged for speak­ing out “against the boys” dur­ing years of re­lent­less bul­ly­ing at the Ma­rine Scot­land of­fice in Scrab­ster, Caith­ness.

How­ever, the tri­bunal judge has ruled that the al­le­ga­tion, along with many oth­ers, are in­ad­mis­si­ble as ev­i­dence be­cause the claims were al­leged to have hap­pened too long ago.

The 49-year-old claims she was tar­geted be­cause of her gen­der and her Cana­dian na­tion­al­ity and says she was even mocked for suf­fer­ing a mis­car­riage.

Yes­ter­day, as her em­ploy­ment tri­bunal got un­der way in Aberdeen, she said she was left feel­ing “in­sulted, hu­mil­i­ated and de­graded as a woman” dur­ing her 10-year stint at the north of­fice.

Due to the age of the other al­le­ga­tions, the hear­ing is only fo­cus­ing on a se­ries of “threat­en­ing” cards Ms Fitzpatrick re­ceived on her birth­day and Valentine’s Day be­tween 2015 and 2017.

She told the hear­ing that the mes­sages left her “trau­ma­tised” and dented her con­fi­dence to such an ex­tent that she be­came “a recluse”. Ms Fitzpatrick, who lives at Janet­stown out­side Thurso, has been in Scot­land for 25 years and be­gan work­ing at Scrab­ster as a fish­ery of­fi­cer in 2006.

Her job en­com­passes a stretch of coast be­tween Strathy and Helms­dale, and in­volves in­spect­ing catches to en­sure quo­tas are be­ing ad­hered to.

She is still em­ployed by Ma­rine Scot­land but has been signed off since Novem­ber 2016.

The tri­bunal heard Ms Fitzpatrick re­ceived a first let­ter at her work on Fe­bru­ary 12 2015, which con­tained a hand­writ­ten lim­er­ick de­scrib­ing her as “Cana­dian Jock” and re­fer­ring to her hav­ing male gen­i­talia.

She re­ceived an­other on her birth­day in 2016, which re­ferred to her as “old troll” – a nick­name she claims bul­lies at work used for her.

And let­ters con­tin­ued to ar­rive even af­ter she was signed off, with a Valentine’s card posted to her home last Fe­bru­ary.

Ms Fitzpatrick said: “I felt in­sulted, hu­mil­i­ated and de­graded as a woman, and I felt I was be­ing made fun of.

“I thought they were from col­leagues be­cause phrases like ‘old troll’ and ‘Cana­dian Jock’ had been used about me at work. “Some­one with a sick mind was send­ing them to in­tim­i­date me and frighten me, be­cause I’m a woman work­ing in what is seen as a man’s job in Ma­rine Scot­land.”

Ms Fitzpatrick said that “noth­ing changed” de­spite com­plain­ing to Ma­rine Scot­land’s hu­man re­sources depart­ment.

She added: “When I first started get­ting the cards it made me feel aw­ful, but as they con­tin­ued it af­fected my self-es­teem and I be­came a recluse.

“Some­body was con­trol­ling how I felt about my se­cu­rity and there was noth­ing I could do about it.

“I don’t re­ally go out and with ev­ery­thing go­ing on I did con­tact Dig­ni­tas in Switzer­land be­cause I’d had enough. This has driven me to al­most com­mit sui­cide.”

Rep­re­sent­ing Ma­rine Scot­land, so­lic­i­tor An­drew Gibson ar­gued there was no proof that the let­ters had been sent by her work­mates.

The lawyer said that Ms Fitzpatrick was “dis­liked” in the fish­ing com­mu­nity and sug­gested “dis­grun­tled fish­er­men” who she had cau­tioned in her career could have posted the cards.

And he in­di­cated that the com­plainant may have sent her­self the let­ters in an ef­fort to get cer­tain col­leagues into trou­ble.

Ms Fitzpatrick re­sponded: “If I started to do some­thing like that, send my­self cards, I would need to check my­self into a men­tal in­sti­tu­tion.”

The tri­bunal, be­fore Judge James Hendry, con­tin­ues to­day.

“I felt in­sulted, hu­mil­i­ated and de­graded”

DeeAnne Fitzpatrick said she con­tacted an as­sisted sui­cide clinic in Switzer­land

AL­LE­GA­TIONS: DeeAnne Fitzpatrick with her sis­ter Sherry Fitzpatrick, left, out­side the tri­bunal hear­ing in Aberdeen yes­ter­day.

A pho­to­graph re­cently emerged which ap­peared to show the “hor­ri­fy­ing” ex­tent of the bul­ly­ing DeeAnne Fitzpatrick was sub­jected to at Ma­rine Scot­land.How­ever, the tri­bunal judge ruled it was in­ad­mis­si­ble and could not be used as part of her ev­i­dence in the tri­bunal due to its age. The im­age pur­ports to show her bound to a chair in her of­fice and gagged with par­cel tape, as an act of re­venge for whistle­blow­ing on her male col­leagues.First Min­is­ter Nicola Stur­geon pre­vi­ously said she was “ab­so­lutely hor­ri­fied” by the pho­to­graph.

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