The head of London Fire Brigade has spoken out against bullying after an inquest heard how a “singled out” young black firefighter tragically took his own life.
Jaden Francois-Esprit was found hanged at his home in Wapping, east London, in last August just three weeks after his 21st birthday.
The junior firefighter told of feeling bullied due to his race, how he was mocked for eating Caribbean food and nicknamed “Lazy Boy” at Wembley fire station, the inquest heard.
Yet fellow crew members said they were not aware of any mistreatment, nor that Jaden was unhappy at work where he was one of several BAME firefighters.
Senior Coroner Mary Hassell said London Fire Brigade (LFB) could “learn a great deal” from Jaden’s death which she recorded as suicide at the end of the hearing at St Pancras Coroner’s Court on Monday.
Now LFB Commissioner Andy Roe, who met with Jaden’s family shortly after his death, has spoken out to reassure potential recruits that the Brigade does not tolerate any form of bullying.
He said: “The thoughts of all at the brigade remain with the family of firefighter Jaden Francois-Esprit throughout this difficult time.
“This is a tragic incident and it saddens me to hear that instead of enjoying a new career as a firefighter, Jaden faced challenges and felt unhappy.
“I would like to personally reassure the public that the Brigade does not tolerate any form of bullying.
“We take any incidences of alleged bullying seriously and have strict policies in place which all staff are expected to adhere to.”
The Brigade carried out an internal investigation after the tragedy and confirmed it is now taking steps to consider how they might learn from it.
Investigators recommended an external review on the culture of watches at fire stations to ensure this is in line with the culture of the brigade, the inquest heard.
Station officer Daniel Green told the Coroner that LFB could also introduce new mental health checks, and give more thought when allocating firefighters to fire stations.
Speaking today, Mr Roe outlined further steps being taken.
He said: “Soon after Jaden’s death I met with his family, to not only offer my condolences, but to assure them that the Brigade would investigate what happened.
“An internal investigation was carried out and shared with the coroner.
“We will now look at the comments made by the coroner, as well as our investigation, and consider any learning opportunities for the Brigade.”
He added: “Looking after the mental health and well-being of our staff is a priority for the brigade. We have a counselling and trauma service available to all of our staff.
“We have taken additional steps to make sure that any member of staff who has been affected by Jaden’s death has access to this service.
“We hope the conclusion of the inquest has provided firefighter Jaden Francois-Esprit’s family and friends with some closure.”
Jaden’s mum Linda Francois told the Coroner that her son felt “singled out” for being young and “the only person of colour” at Wembley fire station.
Firefighter Gabriel Ivarsson, who trained with Jaden, said that Jaden felt teased for his food and his culture and that he was not receiving the support he needed.
Fellow firefighters within Jaden’s watch agreed there was banter among the crew, they told the inquest Jaden was not bullied and was “100 per cent part of the team.”
Senior Inner North London Coroner Ms Hassell told the inquest she would make a ‘prevention of deaths’ report with recommendations to address areas of mental health.
She said: “I am going to make a prevention of future deaths report.
“What really concerns me is the deteriorating mental health of a young man which was undetected by those around him.
“Jaden clearly had a rich interior life which was sometimes quite at odds with what was going on around him.
“He obviously felt terribly isolated and yet I heard lots of evidence that he was really well liked, that he did have friends, that he did have people who cared about him.
“There seems to me to have been a mismatch between how he felt and how he was perceived by others.
“He obviously felt bullied. He told others that he felt predominantly treated unfairly rather than bullied but he was new to working life.
“He felt unfulfilled, he felt bored and he did not feel things were going his way.
“I am so sorry he felt this way given he was obviously well regarded and he was liked and he was so loved by others and by his family.
“Often people who need help most of all, it is hardest to ask for help. I think Jaden must have found it difficult to ask for the help he wanted.”