EXCLUSIVE: Senior South Yorkshire Police officer cleared over HIV test comments

Boyd Livingstone-Navin.
Boyd Livingstone-Navin.

A senior police officer has been cleared of any wrongdoing over comments she made about colleagues undergoing HIV tests.

The controversy centered on comments made by Zuleika Payne, chair of the South Yorkshire branch of the Police Federation, during an interview with Toby Foster on BBC Radio Sheffield in July.

Zuleika Payne.

Zuleika Payne.

She was speaking about South Yorkshire Police's decision to introduce controversial spit guards from next year, in which a transparent mesh fabric hood is placed on a suspect arrested to prevent them from spitting at officers.

Officer Payne told how some colleagues had to undergo HIV tests after being spat at by suspects who were in the process of being arrested.

But the comments sparked outrage with listener and sexual health worker Boyd Livingstone-Navin, who said it is impossible to contract HIV through spitting and claimed the officer only served to 'perpetuate stigma' around the infection.

He claimed the officer - a former 'equality lead' for the area - had committed a hate crime and made a formal complaint to South Yorkshire Police.

Spit hoods.

Spit hoods.

The force's professional standards department probed the allegation but has decided to take no further action.

A South Yorkshire Police spokesperson said: “We looked into the comments at the time, and concluded that the views expressed about spit hoods did not constitute a hate crime.

"This is because these views do not relate to, or mention, any specific person’s sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation."

A letter sent to Mr Livingstone-Navin by detective chief inspector Phil Etheridge that has been leaked to The Star gave further reasons behind the decision.

The letter said that while Mr Livingstone-Navin was "personally affected by the comments" the Police Reform Act states that a person needs to be "adversely affected" and therefore he does not meet the criteria to make a complaint.

But Mr Livingstone-Navin, who worked for Sheffield Council for 12 years as a senior analyst promoting sexual health and is a former chair of the Sheffield LGBT Network, hit out at the decision and pledged to continue pursuing his complaint.

The 41-year-old said: "They are hiding behind bureaucracy to not address the problem. They are not willing to acknowledge or learn from their mistakes.

“The comments stigmatised people who are already stigmatised."

He has now raised the issue with his MP for North East Derbyshire Lee Rowley and submitted a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

An IPCC spokesperson said: “We have received an appeal against the police’s decision and will assess what, if any, involvement is required by the IPCC.”