A cousin of Barack Obama is suing Scotland Yard for £400,000 after
claiming colleagues would deliberately pass wind at her desk to make her life a misery.
Marie Auma says police officers and Met staff conspired to bully her, including two who would regularly break wind near her while working at Southwark Police Station.
The 57-year-old, who was at Mr Obama’s inauguration in 2009, claims she was ‘belittled and humiliated’ in the campaign of alleged harassment.
It stemmed from refusal of leave to visit her brother’s grave after he died in a car crash in Kenya in 2007 and ended in her being medically retired with mental health difficulties.
Now in a trial at Central London County Court, Miss Auma, of Green Lanes, Palmers Green, Haringey, is fighting for compensation. The Met denies liability.
Her barrister Lorraine Mensah told Judge Simon Freeland QC that Miss Auma, whose job involved liaising with crime victims, had been the victim of ‘21st Century bullying’.
Few of the individual incidents which occurred between 2007 and 2009 could be said to be harassment, but together they formed a ‘culture’ of bullying against her, she said.
She told the court Miss Auma had been refused leave to visit Kenya in 2007, following the deaths of two of her brothers in an accident.
When she complained about the refusal, she was branded a trouble-maker in the force’s ‘rumour mill’, said the barrister.
She said there was a ‘pack mentality’ and that the rumours led directly to an officer and another civilian employee deliberately breaking wind at her desk.
‘Most of the behaviour was open,’ said Mrs Mensah.
When the officer was moved to another unit, the number of memos which Miss Auma had to deal with from there soared, she continued.
And when she herself was moved to another unit at Rotherhithe Police Station, the perception about her followed.
She was treated differently to her colleagues by more senior staff, who treated her as a trouble-maker, said the barrister.
There was a ‘culture of overzealous, oppressive managing’ of Miss Auma, who had worked as a civilian initially in the Telephone Investigations Bureau (TIB), she said.
She had also been forced to take ‘inappropriate’ breaks, making it next to impossible for her to meet her targets, she said.
‘There was clear evidence before the defendants that she was suffering stress, causing her ill health, and she attributed that to the bullying and harassment that she complained of,’ Miss Mensah added.
She had to take time off work due to chest pains in the second half of 2008, which she put down to anxiety and stress caused by her situation at work.
Ultimately, Miss Auma had a mental breakdown and was admitted to hospital. She never returned to work before she was retired on health grounds.
The Met could at any time have ‘controlled or stopped’ the harassment and so prevented Miss Auma from mental injury, said the barrister.
For the Met, barrister Iain Daniels is contesting liability in the trial.
Miss Auma is related to Mr Obama through her aunt, Kezia Obama, who is the president’s Bracknell, Berkshire-based step-mother.
In 2009, when he became president, she travelled with Mrs Obama to Washington for his inauguration. The hearing continues.
Source: UK Daily Mail