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HomeNews UKMet Police: Ex-officers sentenced over racist WhatsApp posts

Met Police: Ex-officers sentenced over racist WhatsApp posts

  • By Tom Symonds
  • internal affairs reporter

image captions,

Robert Lewis set up a WhatsApp group, the court was told

Six former Metropolitan Police officers have been given suspended prison sentences for sending racist, sexist and homophobic messages on WhatsApp, following a BBC Newsnight investigation.

Deputy chief justice Tan Ikram said they had damaged public trust in the police.

He did not accept the idea that their views were merely “outdated”.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court said it did not serve officers during their time in the group.

Dozens of messages deemed offensive were shared over a two-year period, including references to the Duchess of Sussex and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Judge Ikram said the messages “offended many good people in this country and not just those who could be directly offended”.

The former officers were all convicted of improper use of public electronic communications networks.

The six men were sentenced as follows:

  • Michael Chadwell, 63, from Liss, Hampshire – 10 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months and 100 hours unpaid work
  • Peter Booth, 66, from Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire – 8 weeks in prison, 12 months suspended and 140 hours unpaid work
  • Anthony Elsom, 67, from Bournemouth – eight weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months and 40 hours unpaid work
  • Trevor Lewton, 65, from Swansea – six weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months and 65 hours unpaid work.
  • Alan Hall, 65, from Stowmarket, Suffolk – eight weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months and 140 hours of unpaid work.
  • Robert Lewis, 62, from Camberley, Surrey – 14 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, 200 hours unpaid work. He was also fined £500 for possessing two friction batons in private, contrary to section 141(1A) of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.

The officers served in the Met’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command but retired when they exchanged the offensive messages, between 2020 and 2022.

The court heard Lewis, who founded the group, sent some of the messages while working part-time for the Border Force.

image captions,

Michael Chadwell was convicted after a trial

The court heard Lewis was called in by Newsnight after a team member became angry at the nature of messages between officers and “broke ranks” by leaking the contents to journalists.

The messages, which the BBC has decided not to publish, contain images and videos, accompanied by racist comments added by the men.

‘Terrible communication’

Some of the defendants attempted to delete the posts after Newsnight published a report revealing the existence of the WhatsApp group.

Judge Ikram, who rejected claims that the WhatsApp group was private and that the messages were not intended to be made public, told the former officers they “should have known and I find it difficult to accept that you did not know, that these are racist posts.”

image captions,

The men were not serving officers when the WhatsApp messages were sent

“There will always be a risk that even in a private group, these posts will become public,” he added.

Judge Ikram said the risk of undermining trust in the police was an “aggravating factor” he had to consider when deciding on the men’s sentences.

“I have no doubt that each of you now understands the public outrage in all communities about your appalling communications,” the judge said. ‘You think these are silly jokes; Well, they’re not.”

In a statement released after the sentencing hearing, Cdr James Harman, head of the Met’s anti-corruption and abuse command, described the messages as “absolutely appalling”.

“With the defendants having worked as police officers, we recognize that this case could further damage trust in the police force,” he said.

“Colleagues across the Met will be equally disgusted and will be pleased to see today’s result.”

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