RNLI defends decision to sack lifeboat volunteers over explicit mug row

The charity says the issues that led to the dismissal of two crew members were 'not trivial' and it was 'standing up for the thousands of volunteers who are committed to doing the right thing'

The Whitby lifeboat station (Photograph: Shutterstock)
The Whitby lifeboat station (Photograph: Shutterstock)

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has defended its decision to sack two lifeboat volunteers following a row over sexually explicit mugs.

Two male volunteers at the charity’s Whitby branch in North Yorkshire were dismissed for "production of inappropriate material of a sexual nature and associated social media activity directed at an RNLI staff member", the charity said in a statement yesterday. 

Media reports have said that the material the two volunteers – named as Ben Laws and Joe Winspear – were sacked for were explicit images on mugs combining the face of a crew member and the body of a naked woman, as well as messages sent on a WhatsApp group.

Four other members of the crew have resigned after the decision to dismiss the two volunteers was made, although the RNLI said both the sacked members had the right to appeal.

The RNLI statement said the situation in Whitby "was not a trivial matter" and that media mock-ups of the mugs were "not a true representation of what was produced".

The statement said: "The lifeboat station should be an environment where people can expect to be treated with dignity and respect.

"We cannot allow bullying, harassment or discrimination in what should be a safe and inclusive environment, and there will be serious consequences for anybody who demonstrates this behaviour within the RNLI."

The statement said that, by challenging the crew’s behaviour, the charity was "standing up for the thousands of volunteers who are committed to doing the right thing".

It said: "Our dedicated volunteers represent the values and principles of our organisation and we will not allow any behaviour that brings the work of the RNLI and our people into disrepute."

The charity said it would not provide more detail about the dispute for legal reasons and to allow the sacked crew members to appeal.

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