Hampshire police officers from crime unit could face the sack after racist and homophobic comments

SIX police officers could face being sacked after they were recorded making ‘abhorrent’ and inappropriate comments in a ‘toxic’ specialist police unit.

By Millie Salkeld
Friday, 18th December 2020, 6:40 pm

Six employees of Hampshire police’s Serious Organised Crime Unit (Socu) office in Basingstoke, Hampshire, were recorded by a bugging device making racist, sexist, homophobic and other inappropriate comments.

Retired detective inspector Tim Ireson, detective sergeant Oliver Lage, detective sergeant Gregory Willcox, former PC Craig Bannerman, trainee detective constable Andrew Ferguson and PC James Oldfield were all found to have breached professional standards at a tribunal.

Mr Ireson and Det Sgt Willcox were also accused of failing to fulfil their supervisory roles to stop or report the inappropriate behaviour.

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The tribunal panel will consider what sanctions to place on the officers when it reconvenes on January 4.

Jason Beer QC, presenting the case against the officers, said that following an anonymous complaint, covert recording devices were placed in the unit’s offices between March 9 and April 2, 2018.

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Amongst the conversations recorded were comments that the only black officer in the unit had arrived from Africa in a crate and ‘explicit and highly offensive’ fake pornographic images of the royal family were also posted on a work Whatsapp group.

Mr Beer said: ‘This was a specialist police unit that enjoyed relative isolation from the rest of the force due to the sensitive and sometimes covert nature of the work that it undertook.

‘That isolation and a lack of leadership by Mr Ireson and Det Sgt Willcox appears to have led to a toxic, abhorrent culture developing in the unit amongst some officers.

‘(This) is inconsistent with the values and standards of the police service in the 21st century and inconsistent with continued service in the police service.’

A Hampshire police spokesman said: ‘An internal investigation was launched in 2018 following an anonymous report through the force’s confidential reporting system.

‘A decision was made to conduct covert monitoring within the SOCU North office at the Northern Police Investigation Centre. During the three week period, comments of a discriminatory nature were recorded.

‘The panel has spent a number of weeks listening to the evidence, and the submissions from the officers to explain their behaviours, before reaching their findings, which have been delivered cumulatively. We will receive a full breakdown of the decisions in due course.’

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