Overweight detective told to stop 'drinking gallons of coke' wins £10K

Overweight detective wins £10,000 for her hurt feelings after boss told her she would feel better if she stopped ‘drinking gallons of coke’

  • DC Kerry Moth, 46, was told to take more responsibility over diet, tribunal heard
  • Devon and Cornwall policewoman suffers from chronic condition fibromyalgia
  • On average she had 76 days off work per year over 10-year period, hearing told 
  • Tribunal had ruled she had been discriminated against on grounds of disability

An overweight detective with fibromyalgia who felt humiliated when a higher-ranking officer said she might feel better if she stopped ‘drinking gallons of coke’ was awarded £10,000 in compensation yesterday.

Detective Constable Kerry Moth, 46, was told to take more responsibility over her diet, an employment tribunal in Exeter heard. 

Detective Sergeant Daryl Marvelly said if colleagues saw she was making an effort to lose weight they would have more respect for her, the hearing was told.

DC Moth, who joined Devon and Cornwall police in 2003, suffers from fibromyalgia – a chronic condition defined by widespread pain and fatigue.

Lawyer Mark Ley-Morgan, for the police, said that on average she had 76 days off work per year over a 10-year period. 

The tribunal ruled in March that DC Moth had been discriminated against on the grounds of disability. 

Detective Constable Kerry Moth, 46, felt ‘humiliated’ when she was told to take more responsibility over her diet, an employment tribunal in Exeter heard (file photo) 

In July 2018 over lunch at Barnstaple police station (file photo above) DC Moth told DS Marvelly that she was ‘fed up’ with people assuming her weight contributed to her condition

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition defined by widespread pain and fatigue.

It affects up to 2.7 per cent of people worldwide, with three women suffering for every one man, studies suggest.

In July 2019 the BBC’s Kirsty Young announced that she was stepping down as host of Desert Island Discs due to ‘health problems’, after taking time off the year previous due to the condition. 

Fibromyalgia is often triggered by a trauma, such as a car accident or childbirth, as well as infections. Why this occurs is unclear.

The discomfort tends to be felt as aches and burning from head-to-toe.

And the fatigue ranges from feeling sleepy to the exhaustion of having the flu.

Severe sufferers are often unable to work or socialise.

The pain can be worse at some times than others and may change location, such as becoming more severe in parts of the body that are used the most.

Other symptoms can include headaches; IBS; diarrhoea or constipation; poor concentration; dizziness; allergies and stimuli sensitivity, such as to light or heat.

Studies suggest the average patient waits five years to be diagnosed, which is thought to be due to X-rays and other medical tests not picking it up.

It is generally defined as pain that lasts for more than three months and affects 11 or more out of 18 tender points when pressed.

Treatment aims to relieve pain and aid sleep.

Source: Fibromyalgia Action UK

Mr Ley-Morgan said the force was not uncaring and had made a lot of adjustments for the officer who was ‘a very useful member of the organisation’. 

In July 2018 over lunch at Barnstaple police station DC Moth told DS Marvelly that she was ‘fed up’ with people assuming her weight contributed to her condition. 

The tribunal previously heard that in February 2019 Professor John Harrison from the force’s Occupational Health department delivered a report on how the illness affected DC Moth’s ability to do her job.

He explained that Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that requires people to learn to live with the condition and modify their lifestyle.

In the unlikely event of a situation becoming violent, in Professor Harrison’s view, DC Moth would be able to protect herself and come to the aid of a fellow officer.

However, he added that she was not fit to undergo a fitness test and therefore could not undergo officer safety training. 

DC Moth said her weight was not a result of her diet but due to the medication she had to take for her chronic condition.

DS Marvelly said he did not dispute that but claimed he saw her regularly drink ‘gallons of Coca Cola’. 

However, DC Moth said she only downed zero calorie and decaffeinated coke.

The employment tribunal judge, Alastair Smail, said DS Marvelly was not acting in bad faith but the conversations ‘did have the effect of humiliating her’.

He said the reference to her drinking gallons of Coca Cola indicated an unprofessional tone and concluded DC Moth was ‘harassed’ by his comments.

Yesterday DC Moth, who still works for the force, broke down in tears as she said: ‘I just want to do my job.’

The policewoman said she was not able to do fitness tests but one day aspired to be promoted to a sergeant.

Judge Alastair Smail said DS Marvelly’s comments became personal and were not appropriate for the professional relationship between them.

He added that DS Marvelly acted in good faith but his comments had an upsetting effect which was unfortunate.

The judge said £10,000 in compensation was for injury to feelings.

He also made a series of recommendations so the officer can continue to excel in her duties.  

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