Firefighter and face of brigade’s values’ campaign was fired for engaging in Carry On-style banter over sex during a staff building event.

Richard Holden (46), was reported to senior colleagues after he joked repeatedly about ‘pegging’, a slang term used for women who use sex aids and have intercourse with their partners or husbands.

Married Holden did not know what the term meant when it first came up in a young female recruit’s mind. She said that her partner “enjoyed being pegged”.

The part-timer raised money for the firefighters charity and started using the term.

Holden, who was based at Preesall Fire Station near Fleetwood, was later fired following a disciplinary investigation. Two young recruits, one man and one woman, were also given written warnings.

Lancashire firefighter Richard Holden (pictured) has been sacked after repeatedly referencing sex acts while chatting with younger recruits during a training weekend in the Lake District

Lancashire firefighter Richard Holden (pictured) has been sacked after repeatedly referencing sex acts while chatting with younger recruits during a training weekend in the Lake District

An employment tribunal in Manchester revealed details about Holden’s 2014 loss of a claim for unfair dismissal. 

He spoke at the hearing about his activism against bullying and dishonesty, and how he had dedicated his time and career to raising money for mental health charities.

He was awarded a ‘LFRS star Award’ in 2018 and was featured on posters promoting the brigade’s campaign for the service called STRIVE. This acronym stands for Service, Trust. Respect. Integrity. Valued. Empowered.

His downfall began in September 2020, when he joined rookies at Brathay Hill Residential Centre in Ambleside as part his training to be a recruit for a full-time position.

Brian Doyle, the tribunal judge, stated that Holden was the claimant’. He said: ‘He had much more experience than the other recruits, as many of them were in their twenties, while he was still in his forties.

“He did his best to be part and to join in the conversation.

“Most conversation revolved around the partners, and the topic turned to sexual issues, including a discussion on their partners’ diminished interest in sex since having a baby. 

“One recruit mentioned that she liked “pegging” and her previous partner had enjoyed being pounded.

In 2018, Mr Holden (left) was given a Star award from the fire service for his charity work

For his charity work, Mr Holden (left), was awarded a Star award by the fire department in 2018.

“The claimant inquired about the meaning of the word because it was unclear to him. He had the impression that he was not the only one who didn’t know what it meant.

“She explained what pegging was, and another recruit said that he enjoyed it too.

The tribunal heard that the group was warned about using inappropriate words after an instructor noticed their conversation. 

“The group was leaving Brathay Hall in a minibus the next day when an instructor asked them what they had learned from their course. 

Judge Doyle continued: “But the next day, during a lecture on health and well-being, the claimant’s team was asked for a name and the claimant shouted peggers.

“Someone sat down in front of the claimant and immediately told him that he shouldn’t have said it. The claimant was shocked because he thought it was a bit cheeky.

‘The instructor misunderstook it to beggars. The recruit corrected her and spell it out. At the end of the lecture the claimant left and apologised for her mistake to the instructor. 

The tribunal was informed that Holden was the subject of an investigation. He claimed that he knew the term but didn’t know the extent of the impropriety involved in its use until he returned home. 

Mr Holden insisted he did not understand the term when he first heard it and did not realise how inappropriate it was until he researched the term at home after the training course

Mr Holden maintained that he did not understand the term the first time he heard it. He did not realize how inappropriate it was until after he completed the training course at home.

Judge Doyle said: “He confirmed that he used the name peggers for a possible quiz team name, but that it was stupid to do so.

‘It was the opinion of the station manager that all except for Mr Holden accepted responsibility for their actions and were remorseful. She believed they would be able, in the future, to show those values in their employment with the respondent services.

“She believes the claimant’s insincerity and attempts to minimize his actions during the investigation, disciplinary hearing and the investigation were separate and further breaches the respondent’s values.

“She considered him to have displayed a lack in integrity, showed that they could not trust him, and showed a lack respect for the respondent service by not being honest.

She considered that ‘His inability to remorsefully and accept wrongdoing was a sign that he was less likely of changing his behavior in future.

“There is a possibility that he would violate the values again in any way, making him unsuitable to be an employee.”

The incident took place during a residential weekend at Brathay Hall in the Lake District

The incident occurred during a weekend residential at Brathay Hall, Lake District.

Holden made the following statement: “While I was certainly naive in the days we are discussing,” Holden stated: “I haven’t been dishonesty or evasive at any stage as is proven by me immediate and complete admission of each of the circumstances questioned.

“I was the only one who was dismissed, and the severity of my treatment seems to have been based on me not showing as much emotion and remorse.

‘I have always confirmed that it was a sexual activity. I also knew and accepted it was stupid to make it. I apologized to the instructor immediately after the lecture ended, but I didn’t understand the gravity of the comment until Friday night.

“There is no dishonesty at my case, but the severity and harshness of my dismissal are too harsh.”

LFRS reported that Holden was dismissed because he had shown a lack of honesty’ during an investigation into the conduct of his conduct, which constituted a’separate breach of the service’s values’.

Other recruits were not allowed to be fired because their banter about “pegging” had occurred outside of work hours and was therefore deemed less serious.

Bob Warren, director for people and development at LFRS, said that “Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service was pleased that the tribunal accepted the results of our internal investigation.”

“The service strives to maintain a safe environment for all employees and we have a set value to help us achieve that goal. We will take corrective action if an employee fails to live up the standards we have set.