Race rant diplomat back at Foreign Office

A senior diplomat convicted of racially aggravated harassment for a foul-mouthed anti-Israeli rant in a gym has been given a new role at the Foreign Office.

Rowan Laxton, 48, the then head of the South Asia desk at the FO, was exercising in a gym when saw a television report during Israel’s action in Gaza and shouted “f------ Israelis, f------ Jews”.

Two men exercising elsewhere overheard him, complained to staff and Mr Laxton was arrested and charged subsequently. He was also suspended from his post at the FO.

He denied the charge but was found guilty by City of Westminster magistrates in September and fined £350.

His counsel described the incident as “a moment of madness which is going to have very grave and long-term consequences” and that “whatever happens in court is secondary to the effect it will have on his career and his reputation”.

It was revealed this week that his suspension has been lifted and he has returned to work, though in a new job.

A blogger submitted a number of questions under a Freedom of Information request to the Foreign Office about Laxton and received a reply from the FCO’s Jan Trestain.

She wrote: “I can confirm that the FCO does hold information to answer part of your request. And our official response is: we can confirm that a member of FCO staff (Mr Laxton) was convicted, on September 24 , of a Public Order offence. The FCO takes very seriously any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour by its staff.

“The case has been dealt with under our internal misconduct procedures. Mr Laxton was issued with a final written warning putting him on notice for the next 12 months.”

When contacted by the JC, an FCO spokesman confirmed that the diplomat had been moved from the South Asia desk. He said: “His original job had been taken over by another officer while he was suspended. He is rejoining the service in another role.”

Asked if his new job had anything to do with the Middle East, the spokesman replied: “I’m not sure. But in any case, we would not say what his new job is. I don’t believe he has lost any seniority as the matter has been dealt with by the written warning.

“If there is further inappropriate behaviour by Mr Laxton, that warning would come into play.”

He said Mr Laxton would have had an opportunity to put his case to a disciplinary hearing and would have been able to have union representation.

Mark Gardner, communications director of the Community Security Trust, said: “The CST is extremely disappointed by the Foreign Office’s decision merely to put Rowan Laxton on notice for 12 months.

“If he were a football fan, he would have faced a far stiffer punishment for shouting racist abuse. The Foreign Office is sending out the wrong message and this is significantly compounded by its failure even to discuss the matter with the Jewish community.”

    Last updated: 5:01pm, December 3 2009