Firefighters could face enhanced vetting in wake of ITV News reports on harassment and abuse

One of the service's fire engines
The Fire Inspectorate published what it called a 'deeply troubling' report in March (file photo). Credit: PA

Frontline firefighters would undergo enhanced vetting under a change being considered by officials, a Home Office minister has said.

The development comes in the wake of an extensive investigation from ITV News, which uncovered widespread claims of sexual harassment and abuse of women at the hands of firefighters.

Last month, the Fire Inspectorate declared a "watershed moment," after discovering firefighters were suffering misogyny, racism and homophobia at a quarter of England's 44 fire services.

Home Office minister Chris Philp said he was "deeply concerned" by reports which highlighted discriminatory behaviour within fire services.

ITV News uncovered claims that female colleagues had been inundated with explicit photographs of male firefighters at one service.

At another, UK editor Paul Brand's reporting uncovered how a fire officer was promoted to management despite being under police investigation for rape.

A report from His Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services published in March found "deeply troubling" evidence of bullying, harassment and discrimination in fire and rescue services across England.

Mr Philp was speaking in the Commons during an adjournment debate led by the Conservative MP for Aylesbury, Rob Butler, on Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service's contribution to its community.

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Mr Butler said the service seeks to ensure "everything possible is done on a daily basis to root out poor behaviour".

He said it takes a "proactive" approach, telling the Commons: "Bucks Fire is thought to be the only service in the country to insist on enhanced DBS [Disclosure and Barring Service] checks for all frontline staff."

Mr Philp referenced the national report, and said: "I am deeply concerned about these issues of culture.

"I expect the fire service to address these. I expect the fire service at all levels, right through to individual frontline firefighters, watch commanders, fire station commanders, to make sure that the right culture prevails.

"And where there is inappropriate behaviour, whether it's sexist, misogynist, racist, homophobic, that sort of behaviour needs to be immediately called out and eradicated, and it's up to every single firefighter, as well as fire service leaders, to make sure that happens.

"I'm very pleased to hear that Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service does conduct full vetting checks on all of their firefighters.

"That's something I think other fire services can learn from, and it's something I have asked colleagues in the Home Office to have a very careful look at.

"So the good practice in Buckinghamshire, where Buckinghamshire leads, perhaps the rest of the country can follow."

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