Firefighters fined for shining torches on happy campers
Wednesday October 3, 2007
The firemen from Avon Fire and Rescue Service were each fined up to £1,000 after being accused of bringing the service into disrepute and misusing of fire equipment.
They are believed to have driven a fire engine to a notorious spot on the Bristol Downs late on June 27 this year.
The firefighters, who have not been named, allegedly shone torches into an area where people were thought to be having sex.
One man who wanted to know what the firefighters were doing on the downs at that time complained to the Terrence Higgins Trust, an Aids and HIV charity.
The complaint was passed on to Avon fire service, prompting a three-month inquiry.
The firefighters were suspended on full pay and have now been transferred to other stations.
Simon Nelson, the regional manager for the Terrence Higgins Trust in the Bristol area, said: "What we've done is to act as a third party.
"We were asked by a member of the public to question what the fire service was doing up on the downs at that time of night."
The Avon fire service condemned the action of the firefighters but confirmed that they had now returned to work.
A spokeswoman said Avon fire service does not and will not condone the actions of the individuals involved.
"Avon Fire and Rescue Service is a fair employer and a thorough investigation was carried out and disciplinary action taken."
Avon and Somerset police said it had not been made aware of the incident but anyone engaging in public outdoor sex would be breaking the law.
A spokesman said: "It is an offence to commit an act which is lewd, obscene or disgusting in a public place which is capable of outraging public decency.
"If any complaint is made in relation to such an incident, it would be investigated thoroughly and, where appropriate, action would be taken to arrest any offender."
The four firefighters must attend Avon fire service's anti-discrimination conference, which will be staged next week.
The spokeswoman said: "Recent newspaper reports have highlighted our conference which takes place next week - Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality in the Fire Service: An Absolute Taboo?
"This conference, the first for a UK fire and rescue service, has been a long time coming and has been something we have wanted to host for many years following the findings of the 1999 HM Fire Service Inspectorate report, Equality and Fairness in the Fire Service."And remember, being gay is not about sex, esp. outdoor late-night group sex with strangers in a park.