Susan Horton: Rewards for Abuse?
Racism and racist abuse in a civilised society is deplored. Those found guilty of such abuse, particularly in a work capacity, not only tend to lose the respect of their peers but it can affect their career progression, with employers spotting a clear inability to work without prejudice in an environment where teamwork is necessary.
However, in a bizarre twist, as with Susan Horton, the perpetrator becomes the authority.
Last week, a Northamptonshire nurse Susan Horton and her colleague, Sarah Cullum were struck off the nurse’s register after being found guilty of 60 counts of racial and verbal abuse against colleagues at St. Mary’s Hospital in Kettering, including the repeated use of the N-word and monkey chants against black colleagues. The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) tribunal also heard that the pair abused patients in their care, directing homophobic slurs against one elderly patient before using physical force against him.
A major twist in this particular case is that Horton had found employment after being fired by Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust – as a Community Safety Officer drafting race relations policy. In her role with Wellingborough Borough Council, Horton wrote policy as part of a wider drive against anti-social behaviour, delivering a talk to 300 employees about race hate at the council.
Such a development raises questions about how seriously anti-social behaviour, something that can affect many people in different ways is being taken by councils, who shoulder much responsibility for countering it. The hiring of Horton seems to point to an idea of anti-social behaviour being described as such only within the particular context of youth and street crime, making workplace bullying acceptable in the process. This risks disconnecting racist abuse and the suffering it causes from anti-social behaviour as a whole, allowing people who have been shown to be inappropriate for such roles to be hired.
Even if Wellingborough Council did not know about Horton’s past, the lack of knowledge in itself raises questions about how thorough it was in hiring someone for a role paid for by taxpayers whose remit was to address those taxpayer’s concerns about anti-social behaviour. A bad message is sent with this revelation. It is made clear that while people care about anti-social behaviour to the point that they will allow councils to spend their money on hiring people to prevent it and provide remedies to such occurrences, councils like Wellingborough are being lax in their responses to people’s concerns by hiring people without proper checks, leading to embarrassing instances such as this one.
This episode also serves as a reminder that hate crimes are a form of anti-social behaviour, and that councils up and down the land cannot tackle the latter without targeting the former. It is clear that those put in a public position to tackle anti-social behaviour need to lead by example by exercising the respect for others in preventing anti-social behaviour from blighting communities. With that in mind, it is clear that Wellingborough Council made a mistake in hiring someone with Horton’s record, a mistake that other public bodies would do well to avoid.