A group of firefighters have been disciplined over an incident on Bristol Downs where they “interrupted” four gay men in a cruising ground.
They shone their torches from their engine into bushes catching men engaged in outdoor sex.
One of the men caught by the torch light then filed a complaint under advice from HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust.
After a three month investigation, during which the unidentified firefighters were on paid suspension, two were fined £1000, one was demoted and one received a written warning.
They will all now attend an equality course called ‘Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender Equality in the Fire Service – an absolute taboo?’
The complainant is said to be ‘happy’ with the outcome.
Simon Nelson, of Terrence Higgins Trust, told the Daily Mail:
“We don’t support or condone sex in public places.
“The member of the public simply wanted to know why the fire service was on the Downs at that time of day.
“We work very closely with the police, but in this case the complainant asked us not to report this incident to the police.”
The cruisers have not faced any legal action.
A spokesman for Avon and Somerset police said: “It is an offence to commit an act which is lewd, obscene or disgusting in a public place which is capable of outraging public decency.
“If any complaint is made in relation to such an incident it would be investigated thoroughly and, where appropriate, action would be taken to arrest any offender.”
However, in this case he confirmed that no such incident had been reported.
The firefighters had been en route from Temple Fire Station to Avonmouth Fire Station at 10:30pm on June 27 when they came across the men.
They were found by the disciplinary hearing of bringing the service into disrepute and misuse of fire equipment.
Kevin Pearson, Chief Fire Officer with Avon Fire and Rescue Service, said: “There was no justifiable reason for that appliance to be in that location at that time. They should not have been there and there was no operational justification for their actions.”
He emphasised that any allegation of racism or homophobia was taken seriously and that the crew was in breach of internal policies.
However, one of the firefighter’s colleagues told the Daily Mail that they were not happy with the punishment.
“This is a complete farce. All four officers have been let down by their senior officers when they needed their support the most,” he said.
“They have been treated as the criminals in this case and it has been completely forgotten that they witnessed criminal activity occurring in a public place.
“There are a lot of firefighters in Avon who feel that the four involved have been treated very unfairly so the service can be seen as being politically correct.” he added.
The money from the fines is to be donated to a gay-rights charity and the four firefighters have been transferred to other stations.