Fire service boss Chris Lowther was aware of the rape allegation, yet he allowed the promotion to continue. He only agreed to an interview after ITV News' Paul Brand tracked him down outside his gym.
A serving firefighter was promoted while being investigated for an alleged rape, ITV News has uncovered.
The firefighter at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service was given a new job in management just days after being interviewed under police caution.
His alleged victim has spoken to ITV News anonymously, describing how she had gone to police after waking up in the firefighter's hotel room after an event organised by the service on Tyneside.
She told us: "I woke up and he was pulling my hair really, really hard. Aggressively. And he was nearly hitting me. I started crying. My bellybutton ring was missing, he must've taken it out."
She feared he had raped her while she was sleeping.
"Later when I used the bathroom there was blood. I didn't know where it came from," she said.
"It changed me completely. I don't trust anybody anymore."
A firefighter who was aware of the case at the time, told us that he and other colleagues were angered by the way the case was handled.
Speaking anonymously, he said: "It wasn't just me. Everybody couldn't understand how somebody could be promoted when he's actually under investigation for rape.
"I think he should have been suspended on the spot."
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service's Chief Fire Officer, Chris Lowther, was personally aware of the rape allegation, yet he allowed the promotion to continue.
The police dropped their investigation three months later due to a lack of evidence.
After originally declining requests for an interview, ITV News tracked Mr Lowther down outside his gym near Gateshead, where he finally agreed to answer questions.
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service's Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther only agreed to an interview after ITV News tracked him down outside his gym
Back at headquarters, he told ITV News: "We checked the timelines and all the promotion processes were fully complete before the allegations were made and before the event took place where the allegations were made from.
"The person was confirmed promoted after that.
"As Chief Fire Officer I don't get involved with promotions at that level."
Asked if going ahead with the promotion felt like the right thing to do given the allegation, he said: "I can't remember exactly how I felt at the time... members of the public might disagree with my difficult decision but we always keep our procedures under review and we are going to review the procedures that led to this decision."
'It sends out a message particularly, obviously, to women that the organisation really neither knows nor cares whether the guy is a rapist as long as he can put fires out,' Former Victims Commissioner Vera Baird said
Former Victims Commissioner Vera Baird told ITV News that the firefighter's promotion showed "breath-taking arrogance" by the fire service. She said: "It sends out a message particularly, obviously, to women that the organisation really neither knows nor cares whether the guy is a rapist as long as he can put fires out, and that is a dreadful deterrent to any other woman to come forward with any kind of complaint against a firefighter."
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ITV News has been investigating the culture of fire services across the UK, where we have uncovered multiple accusations of sexual harassment, misogyny and bullying of women.
The alleged rape isn't the only concern about the behaviour of Tyne and Wear firefighters brought to ITV News's attention.
Another firefighter, who has now left the service, alleges that she was bullied and sexually harassed for years.
She told us that male colleagues had groped her, tampered with her kit and left her in burning fires on her own.
'I could have potentially collapsed and died in a fire'
Speaking anonymously, she said her experience in the fire service was a "sickening nightmare".
"I had a screw removed from my own personal lung demand valve and my personal breathing apparatus mask," she said.
"I could have potentially collapsed and died in a fire.
"Your fire kit should also be dry - and for someone to urinate in your fire boots!
"I've even been left in a fire by myself by a colleague. When I came outside he was standing smoking a cigarette and they were all laughing."
In response to the claims, Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther said the service was undertaking an independent review of its culture.
He added: "We do not recognise the behaviours described as being common place in Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service in 2023, but we understand that some staff may be suffering in silence and we are focussed on doing all we can to give them the confidence to speak up. We can find no record of the allegations described being reported, all of which we find abhorrent."
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