News | World News | Lifeboat men who were sacked over a 'pornographic' mug lose their appeal

Lifeboat men who were sacked over a 'pornographic' mug lose their appeal

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  • Whitby lifeboat men Joe Winspear and crewmate Ben Laws were sacked in May
  • They were alleged to have made a pornographic mug of one of their crewmates
  • Four other members of Whitby lifeboat station resigned over their sackings 
  • Now, Mr Winspear and Laws have lost their appear after they were dismissed  

By Mark Branagan For Mailonline

Published: 18:13 EDT, 12 June 2018 | Updated: 20:14 EDT, 12 June 2018

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Two lifeboat man sacked in a row over saucy mugs have lost their battle to be reinstated after 'being hung out to dry in a witch hunt'.

Whitby lifeboat man Joe Winspear says he is 'heartbroken' after being fired from the job he loved in a 60-second phone call with the RNLI who also dismissed crewmate Ben Laws.

Four other members of Whitby lifeboat crew resigned over the sackings at the start of May and a fifth is said to be on the brink of quitting as well.

The four who have already left in protest are navigator Steve Boocock, helmsman Martyn Cairns and trainees Neil Cook and Simon Rhodes.

Whitby lifeboat man Joe Winspear says he is 'heartbroken' after being fired from the job he loved in a 60-second phone call with the RNLI who also dismissed crewmate Ben Laws (pictured)
Whitby lifeboat man Joe Winspear says he is 'heartbroken' after being fired from the job he loved in a 60-second phone call with the RNLI who also dismissed crewmate Ben Laws (pictured)
Ben Laws
Ben Laws

Whitby lifeboat man Joe Winspear, right, says he is 'heartbroken' after being fired from the job he loved in a 60-second phone call with the RNLI who also dismissed crewmate Ben Laws, left

Mr Laws said he was 'sad to say goodbye to the RNLI' after 'a great 15 years' in which he had regarded his crew mates as 'a great big happy family'. Pictured: Whitby lifeboat station
Mr Laws said he was 'sad to say goodbye to the RNLI' after 'a great 15 years' in which he had regarded his crew mates as 'a great big happy family'. Pictured: Whitby lifeboat station

Mr Laws said he was 'sad to say goodbye to the RNLI' after 'a great 15 years' in which he had regarded his crew mates as 'a great big happy family'. Pictured: Whitby lifeboat station

A mock-up of how the mug might have looked. An RNLI spokesman said: 'The actual image produced by the volunteer was so graphic that no newspaper would be able to print it without breaking the law'
A mock-up of how the mug might have looked. An RNLI spokesman said: 'The actual image produced by the volunteer was so graphic that no newspaper would be able to print it without breaking the law'

A mock-up of how the mug might have looked. An RNLI spokesman said: 'The actual image produced by the volunteer was so graphic that no newspaper would be able to print it without breaking the law'

Bank worker Joe, 26, and café owner Mr Laws, 36, have now broken weeks of silence to launch a broadside against the RNLI.

Mr Laws said he was 'sad to say goodbye to the RNLI' after 'a great 15 years' in which he had regarded his crew mates as 'a great big happy family'.

He said: 'We've recovered too many unfortunate people who didn't make it, but we always did it with pride, respect, and dignity - three words the RNLI could do with looking up in the dictionary.

'Me and Joe have been the brunt of a witch hunt and massive cover up our stations. Regional management have hung us out to dry and just disposed of us without a care in the world.

'Out of all of this, no good has come - just a massive wedge driven into the crew and six good crew members gone.

'I hope the RNLI do their job properly now and get rid of all the true problems at Whitby RNLI now -from management down to the snakes on the crew.

Trainee Neil Cook was among four other crewmen at the lifeboat station who quit in protest of the dismissals 
Trainee Neil Cook was among four other crewmen at the lifeboat station who quit in protest of the dismissals 

Trainee Neil Cook was among four other crewmen at the lifeboat station who quit in protest of the dismissals 

'Hopefully, they will see sense and wake up and see the real problems at Whitby and try and make it better for the good of the public who we are supposed to be keeping safe.'

Bank worker Joe said: 'I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone that has contacted us and supported us though this entire nightmare..

'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.

Steve Boocock said it had also been confirmed his time on Whitby Lifeboat crew had come to an end
Steve Boocock said it had also been confirmed his time on Whitby Lifeboat crew had come to an end

Steve Boocock said it had also been confirmed his time on Whitby Lifeboat crew had come to an end

'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. 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. Two 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.'

He said he was 'hounded for days' be interviewed by bosses and when he did he was told he could not have any one sit in with him - despite his solicitor saying he should have had someone present.

The crew was also ordered to attend another meeting in April where they were 'talked down, and 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'.

Helmsman Martyn Cairns also resigned from his role after his crewmates' dismissal
Helmsman Martyn Cairns also resigned from his role after his crewmates' dismissal

Helmsman Martyn Cairns also resigned from his role after his crewmates' dismissal

During a series of meetings surrounding his sacking, he says he was 'accused of being threatening and abusive towards a member of staff which is completely false'.

He added: '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.

'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 thousands of pounds which is money supposed to be used to save lives at sea.

'Many of you will have seen the recent recruitment advertisement for a Safeguard Officer with a £40,000+ a year salary.'

He alleged donations were also used to investigate crew members throughout the country - 'just a few being St Helier, Scarborough, Arbroath, Whitby, Bridlington, and Filey'.

He concluded: 'Anybody that's knows me will know that I am Lifeboat through and through and today's news is devastating. Whitby 21 signing off.'

Steve Boocock said it had also been confirmed his time on Whitby Lifeboat crew had come to an end.

He said: 'I have enjoyed the last 18 years of service, worked with some great lads and lasses and served under some legendary coxswains.

'I really wanted to reach my 20 years but sadly recent events and some disgraceful decisions by the RNLI has put that ambition to bed. Thanks to all those who I have served with for all those years.'

The RNLI said: 'Following a fair and robust investigation and appeal process, we have upheld our decision to stand down two crew members from Whitby RNLI.

An RNLI spokesman said 'The remaining volunteer crew at Whitby are working closely with the RNLI to operate an effective lifesaving operation at Whitby lifeboat station.' Pictured: Trainee Simon Rhodes, who also resigned in protest 
An RNLI spokesman said 'The remaining volunteer crew at Whitby are working closely with the RNLI to operate an effective lifesaving operation at Whitby lifeboat station.' Pictured: Trainee Simon Rhodes, who also resigned in protest 

An RNLI spokesman said 'The remaining volunteer crew at Whitby are working closely with the RNLI to operate an effective lifesaving operation at Whitby lifeboat station.' Pictured: Trainee Simon Rhodes, who also resigned in protest 

'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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