Police in crime unit shared fake porn of Harry and Kate Middleton

Police officers in ‘toxic’ organised crime unit shared ‘explicit and highly offensive’ fake pornographic image of Prince Harry having sex with Kate Middleton in work WhatsApp group, tribunal hears

  • 6 officers a Hampshire Police unit accused of breaching professional standards
  • Hit with allegations of ‘abhorrent’ language and explicit messages to group chat
  • Following anonymous complaint, covert recording devices put in offices in 2018
  • Investigators also began monitoring their WhatsApp messages and emails
  • Detective Constable Andrew Ferguson sent an image to the Socu WhatsApp
  • It showed the Duke of Sussex engaging in sex act with Duchess of Cambridge

Members of a ‘toxic’ police unit sent ‘explicit and highly offensive’ fake pornographic images of Prince Harry and Kate Middleton to a work’s WhatsApp group, a disciplinary hearing has heard.

Six officers from Hampshire Police’s Serious Organised Crime Unit (Socu) office in Basingstoke are accused of breaching professional standards and face a three-week tribunal in Winchester.

The ‘covert’ unit – which has been described by the disciplinary hearing as ‘ableist, sexist, racist, transphobic and homophobic’ –  has been hit with allegations of ‘abhorrent’ language and explicit messages sent to a group chat.

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.

Investigators also began monitoring their WhatsApp messages and emails. 

On May 22, 2018, Detective Constable Andrew Ferguson sent an image to the Socu WhatsApp group showing the Duke of Sussex engaging in a sex act with the Duchess of Cambridge.

He said the image was ‘explicit and highly offensive’ and added that Ferguson admitted that it was ‘completely inappropriate’.

Ferguson said: ‘With hindsight there is absolutely nothing funny about it, it falls well below the professional standards expected of me.’

Members of a ‘toxic’ Hampshire police unit sent ‘explicit and highly offensive’ fake pornographic images of Prince Harry and Kate Middleton to a work’s WhatsApp group, a disciplinary hearing has heard (file image of Hampshire Police and Investigation Centre)  

When someone posted an image of a proctologist working on a training dummy with a finger up its rectum in the group chat, PC James Oldfield told colleagues being homosexual must be ‘the most uncomfortable feeling ever’.

Oldfield had recently undergone an anal examination and the hearing was told he admitted this was a ‘misplaced’ reference to that.

On another occasion the officer said ‘sleep is for gays’ but claimed he didn’t mean it in an offensive way.

Jason Beer QC, who is outlining the case against the Hampshire officers, today told the hearing: ‘Sleep [is] for gays’ implies that gay men are weak compared to heterosexual men. The comment is homophobic and offensive.’ 

That same day, Oldfield posted a Photoshopped image of the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, which had taken place three days earlier.

The image showed a black man exposing his genitals and the caption referred to the unit’s only black officer, Detective Constable Sol Koranteng – who is not accused as part of the case – stating ‘that’s where Sol was on Saturday’.

Mr Beer suggested it was racist to send the image of a ‘black man with his penis out’, but Oldfield said in interview that he was ‘not a racist person’.

Oldfield added: ‘Sol’s a black man on our team and I’m trying to make a joke out of that, saying that was Sol.’ 

Mr Beer said that later the same day, Oldfield posted a video showing a black man having sex with a drunk white woman at a bus stop, with a caption stating: ‘And that’s where Sol is today.’

He said Oldfield accepted that it was ‘outrageous’ and that he should not have posted the video – but had not intended to be racist. 

Another officer, PC Craig Bannerman, called DC Koranteng, ‘Danny Glover’ – the black American actor – and said he was ‘illegal’.

Mr Beer said: ‘He said that he was fed up of sitting between the ‘illegal’ [DC Koranteng] and the ‘angry’ [unnamed officer]

‘He also made reference to ‘the one who won’t leave me alone and looks like Danny Glover [DC Koranteng]’.’

Mr Beer said that Oldfield was also accused of turning up to work late for an 8am shift on April 1, 2018, while still intoxicated from being out drinking into the early hours.

Mr Beer said that Detective Inspector Tim Ireson (now retired) spoke to Oldfield after he asked not to be sent to help a colleague with a rape investigation in Southampton.  

Oldfield is recorded saying: ‘I just don’t really want to speak to anyone, I just don’t want anyone to realise that I’m still pissed, (laughter), well not pissed, did I say that out loud?’

Mr Beer said that Ireson said to a colleague: ‘I’m sure by lunchtime he’ll be fighting fit and raring to go and be a useful member of society, until then f*****.’

Mr Beer said that Oldfield denied still being intoxicated when arriving at work, and Ireson did not consider him unfit for work or that he was under the influence of drink.

Mr Beer added: ‘This episode raises serious and difficult questions of a more general nature for Mr Ireson about the nature of his leadership and supervision of the unit.’  

Oldfield, Ferguson, Ireson, along with Detective Sergeant Oliver Lage, Detective Sergeant Gregory Willcox and former Pc Craig Bannerman, are accused of breaching professional standards and all deny gross misconduct.  

All appeared at the disciplinary hearing at Hampshire Police HQ in Eastleigh today.

Mr Beer QC said that ‘isolation and lack of leadership and supervision’ from Ireson and Willcox led to the ‘toxic and abhorrent culture’.

A female police worker claimed Ireson and Willcox encouraged the ‘banter’ and their values were said to be ‘inconsistent’ with the 21st Century. 

Joanna Bunch, an intelligence analyst who had worked on jobs with SOCU, said there was enough sexist language in the office ‘to last a lifetime’ and such behaviour had become ‘a way of being for the officers’. 

She said: ‘I found the team difficult to work with as DS Willcox seemed to be part of the banter rather than challenging [it]…

‘The SOCU Office North just seems to be stuck in a time from 25-years-ago.’

When interviewed, another analyst, Laura Shergold, agreed and said: ‘Working in [there] seems like a bit of a ‘lads pad’ – the F word was literally every other word.

‘The office felt like a closed environment […] It did intimidate me a bit. It was a closed environment with lots of banter and swearing.’

Mr Beer, said: ‘Their conduct was not restricted to gross vulgarities, sexism or misogyny.

‘It extends to homophobia. It extends to racism. It extends to sexism and sexual remarks despite there being female colleagues present who are quite clearly uncomfortable.

‘It extends to mocking disabilities.’

DC Michael Higgins, a junior detective who had only recently joined the unit, described the atmosphere as ‘intimidating’ and said the environment was ‘laddish’ and made him feel ‘uncomfortable’.

Mr Beer QC told the hearing DC Higgins did not feel comfortable challenging the behaviour because he knew the supervisors accepted it.

The barrister added: ‘A toxic, abhorrent, culture is inconsistent with the values and standards of the police service in the 21st Century.

‘Those who were involved and who presided over the team and permitted the culture to develop and persist cannot reasonably continue to serve within the police service.’

Willcox, who is also accused of falsely recording hours and overtime, was found to have sent hundreds of emails about a local football club on his work email while on shift.

The hearing, viewed by members of the press via video link, heard that over a seven month period, nearly a quarter of all his emails were about Stockbridge U18 Football club.

Mr Beer said that if he had spent less time emailing about the football club he was involved with, perhaps he would have supervised his officers better.

Closing his opening speech, Mr Beer QC said: ‘The behaviour of this group of officers displays the full panoply of offensive, inappropriate and discriminatory beliefs, conduct and language.

‘This had become a way of being for these officers. They say that – or some of them do – that this was the office culture..

‘Mr Ireson and DS Willcox presided over the team at the relevant time.

‘They are responsible for the behaviour of the officers under their supervision and control. They are responsible for the toxic, abhorrent, culture.’

The hearing has been told DI Ireson has retired and PC Bannerman has resigned since the covert recordings were made at the force’s serious organised crime unit between March 9 2018 and April 2 2018.

The police officers all admit misconduct but deny gross misconduct.  

Giving evidence to the tribunal, Ireson said that swearing was in the ‘fabric’ of the police force.

He said: ‘My boundary was I didn’t like the c-word but I used the f-word, that is where I stood, I used the f-word and allowed the f-word to be used in the context of normal conversation which didn’t amount to something discriminatory.’

Earlier, the hearing heard detailed more of the abusive comments uncovered. 

Mr Beer said: ‘It was firstly a unit that was sexist – women were called or referred to as w****s, s**ts, sweet t**s or sugar t**s, Dorises, a f****** Doris, who should show officers their t**s, who had their a***s stared at in the canteen, a suspect is called a f****** c***.

‘And the officers ponder amongst themselves if a person using the tannoy system is ‘getting any c**k’.’

He continued: ‘It was a unit that was racist – a black officer is described as a pavement special, ie a mixed-breed dog.

‘People are described as p*****, a black officer is accused of behaving like a colonial overseer running a plantation of white people, when speaking to a black officer a colleague puts on a fake Caribbean accent – in fact he was from Ghana, a detail like that doesn’t matter, he was a black man after all.

‘A black officer is accused of being flown to England from Africa in a crate and taken to London zoo, all the time a song is sung in the background to the tune of Buffalo Soldier.’

He added that ‘offensive’ photos of black men were shared on a WhatsApp group.

Mr Beer said that the officers were also recorded using derogatory terms for disabled, gay and transgender people and they had also suggested that Albanian nationals ‘should be shot or even killed with a nerve agent’.

Comments were also recorded saying that ‘illegal immigrants deserve the death penalty’, Mr Beer said.

He added: ‘It was a unit that was plain nasty, that displayed attitudes towards groups and communities that police officers are called upon to protect.’

The hearing continues. 

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