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Joe Winspear, one of the Whitby Lifeboat Crew Members who was stood down following a chain of events which started when a salaried manager took offence to a novelty mug, takes to social media in order to share his side of the story
Most people in the large emergency services community (both foreign and domestic) probably would have heard about the two Whitby Lifeboat volunteer crew members who were suspended by the RNLI, in part, owing to some novelty mugs which were found on Station.
The Mugs were found in the private crew-room area of the Station by an ‘Area Lifesaving Manager’ (a salaried position within the RNLI) during a visit to the life-saving station.
Apparently, the crew members concerned were initially told that if they got rid of the mugs, then no further action would be taken against them by the Charity.
Joe Winspear, one of the crew members involved in the ‘incident’, took to social media in order to share his frustration and his upset with being stood down from his life-saving volunteer role that he very much enjoyed.
His words, are shared below:
(the profanities, for the purpose of this advert, have been blurred out)
‘As many of you know I was recently stood down by the RNLI for a breach of the Code of Conduct and finally today I am able to tell you my side of the story as I have been kept quiet by the RNLI until are appeal hearing was completed.
Firstly I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone that has contacted us and supported us though this entire nightmare.
Sorry I haven’t got back to you all as of yet hopefully I will soon.
Today myself and Ben received the decision that will not be reinstated to the Whitby Lifeboat Crew which for us is a heart breaking decision as all we have ever wanted to do was to save lives at sea.
The mugs where a light hearted joke between the crew of which no one of the crew was offended.
Many of you will know that from time to time we have to see and deal with circumstances that no one should ever have to deal with of which I have received limited if any support from the RNLI after events like that.
The mugs were found by an Area Lifesaving Manager and we as a crew were told that if they were taken off the station no further action would be taken.
They were taken off station within 48 hours.
2 months later we received emails from the RNLI stating that we were under investigation for a breach of the Code of Conduct and we had to attend a mandatory interview.
I was hounded for days to arrange an interview which I did for Thursday 15th March and we were told that we couldn’t have anyone sit in on the interview, which after consulting with my solicitor I should have been able to.
After our interviews I was told this would be resolved within the next week. As a crew we were then told it was mandatory to attend a crew meeting on the 19th April for us to be updated on the progress of the investigation and provide the opportunity for feedback.
within the meeting we were talked down, laughed at by a highly paid Inclusion & Diversity Manager for the RNLI on points we were trying to raise and in my opinion completely disrespected for the volunteer role we do. On the 24th of April I was then asked to attend a hearing meeting for the 30th of April.
I had to take a day off work to attend this meeting. I was accused of being threatening and abusive towards a member of staff at the meeting held on the 19th of April which is completely false and I haven’t received an apology for and my impression was there for me to beg to stay on the crew.
The next day I was contacted by the Hearing Manager and was sacked/stood down on the telephone, that conversation lasted less than 60 seconds.
Since then we have had a huge media reaction and the RNLI have released several press releases making myself out in a extremely bad light.
I feel that the punishment doesn’t reflect the situation – the mug wasn’t intended to be kept on Station.
Everyone makes mistakes from time to time but it seems the RNLI don’t give second chances.
I have been a dedicated volunteer and feel I have been made an example of.
All of this has cost the institution thousand of pounds which is money supposed to be used to save lives at sea.
Many of you will have seen in the Daily Mail the recent recruitment advertisement for a Safeguard Officer with a £40,000+ a year salary another just small example of the spending with the RNLI.
If you give money to the RNLI and you don’t request it to been reserved for a particular station then it’s placed in the central pot and will be used to to investigate crew members throughout the county just a few being St Helier, Scarborough, Arbroath, Whitby, Bridlington, Filey, Cleethorpes and New Brighton.
Designate the funds to your local station.
But unfortunately today I received the news on my appeal and that the decision to stand me down has been upheld.
Anybody that’s knows me will know that I am Lifeboat through and through and today’s news is devastating. Whitby 21 signing off’.
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We contacted the RNLI for comment, and an RNLI spokesperson said the following:
‘Following a fair and robust investigation and appeal process, we have upheld our decision to stand down two crew members from Whitby RNLI.
Volunteers are entitled to appeal against our decisions and each case is considered on an individual basis. In this case, no new evidence was presented to us and we stand by our original decision.
We recognise the years of dedication it takes to become a crew member and do not stand volunteers down lightly. But, like any emergency service, the RNLI sets high standards and expects all its volunteers and staff to set an example, not just in terms of their maritime expertise but also in their behaviour and respect for others.
One volunteer was stood down for social media activity which targeted a member of RNLI staff without their knowledge and produced graphic sexual images which went far beyond banter.
The other volunteer produced a hardcore pornographic image of a fellow crew member on a mug. Some newspapers created their own image of a mug, but the actual image produced by the volunteer was so graphic that no newspaper would be able to print it without breaking the law.
We will continue to challenge any inappropriate behaviours and practices by staff or volunteers, and we do this for the thousands of volunteers who are committed to doing the right thing as they operate our 238 lifeboat stations 24/7.
The remaining volunteer crew at Whitby are working closely with the RNLI to operate an effective lifesaving operation at Whitby lifeboat station. We would ask the local community to continue to support our volunteers, in what has been a challenging time, as they remain dedicated to saving lives on the Yorkshire coast.’
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