A POLICE inspector described ethnic minorities as "fuzzy wuzzies" and remarked about a "darkie" at a training session on racial awareness, it was claimed at a tribunal yesterday.

The incident at Gateshead police station was described by training officer PC Peter Richardson in a written statement to the hearing in Newcastle.

Mr Richardson was giving evidence in the case of PC Jeffrey Sidhu, 39, a Gateshead officer who is alleging that he suffered racial discrimination within the Northumbria force.

The training day was being held in 1999 in the wake of the Macpherson report into the issues surrounding the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

In his evidence, Mr Richardson said: "I referred to a recent criminal case in London where a police officer had referred to a suspect as a "half caste" and the judge had stopped the case because he saw this remark as "racist".

"Inspector Campbell, the relief inspector, jokingly made an open remark in reply, saying 'the bloke said it's all right, I've always been called the darkie.'

"This remark attracted a few chuckles from his officers, to which I said, 'That's the sort of remark I wouldn't expect from anyone in this organisation, least of all an inspector' and carried on with my presentation.

"I later joined this shift's sergeants and Inspector Campbell in the canteen upstairs where he apologised to me, and throughout a brief conversation that followed he referred to an ethnic minority group as 'fuzzy wuzzies'."

In his case against Northumbria Police, Mr Sidhu, of Chester-le-Street, County Durham, who is representing himself, claims he was also called a racist name at a police social club in North Shields in 1996.

He said the remark was made by PC Lance Wilson, who three years later led a firearms training course at which Mr Sidhu claims he was belittled and called thick.

In a statement submitted to the tribunal, Mr Sidhu also said a criminal prosecution had been brought against him in order to discredit him, after he first submitted a claim of race discrimination.

He had been charged with attempting to obtain property by deception over a pay-out of £3,750 following a car crash while on duty in May 1998. The case was later dismissed by a judge at Newcastle Crown Court.

Northumbria Police denies racial discrimination and the tribunal continues.