‘No evidence’ of racist bullying in case of firefighter who took own life

New report published into the workplace treatment of Jaden Francois-Esprit prior to his death by suicide in August 2020, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Jaden Francois-Esprit (inset) took his own life
Jaden Francois-Esprit (inset) took his own life

The London Fire Brigade “should have done better” for a young firefighter who took his own life, the organisation’s commissioner has said.

His comments came as a new report into the workplace treatment of 21-year-old Jaden Francois-Esprit – who died by suicide in August 2020 – has found no evidence he was bullied because of his race or other factors.

The conclusion was reached despite the fact that the LFB was found in a separate independent review in 2022 to be an “institutionally racist” organisation.

London Fire Commissioner Andy Roe admitted that better systems should have been in place to support the young firefighter who, among other issues, was unhappy with not being initially given a locker for his belongings, and was given a broken bed to sleep on.

The report found however that these were not examples of Jaden being treated differently to other firefighters.

The new, external investigation was commissioned last year, following an internal inquiry by the LFB. Interviews were held with over 40 witnesses, including Jaden’s family and those based at Wembley Fire Station.

Seven allegations about his treatment at the station were examined, with none upheld.

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Jaden’s family had raised concerns following his death that he was being bullied due to his race and teased by colleagues about his packed lunches of Caribbean food.

But the report concluded: “There was no evidence that Jaden had been directly discriminated against because of his age, race, or disability through dyslexia or mental health.”

It acknowledges however: “It is possible that some of the comments made in Jaden’s presence could have been perceived by him as microaggressions.”

It was reported at his inquest that Jaden made four transfer requests to four different stations in London between February and August 2020.

Roe said that the LFB “failed Jaden as an organisation”, through a degree of “complacency” and “over-adherence to established processes” within the brigade.

He added: “I still believe that we should have done better for Jaden, and have to do better.”

Jaden had dyslexia but this was not recognised by his colleagues, who told the investigation that there is “an organisation-wide lack of awareness about dyslexia”.

The LFB has said it is “working hard” to reform its overall culture in response to the 2022 review by Nazir Afzal, a former chief crown prosecutor for the north west, which found the organisation to be “institutionally misogynist and racist”.

Afzal’s review uncovered accounts ranging from women being groped to firefighters having their helmets filled with urine.

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