A “TOXIC and abhorrent culture” at a Hampshire Constabulary unit resulted in its officers making dozens of sexist, racist and homophobic remarks, a police misconduct hearing has claimed.
Six members of the Serious and Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) North office at the Northern Police Investigation Centre, based in Basingstoke, are said to have breached the Standards of Professional Behaviour.
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 are facing several claims regarding their behaviour between March 9 and April 2 in 2018.
The officers are alleged to have made comments of a discriminatory nature, including homophobic, racist and sexist remarks, or comments of an inappropriate or offensive nature, during covert recordings.
It is also alleged that discriminatory, inappropriate or offensive emails were sent by some of the officers from Hampshire Constabulary accounts, and messages of a similar nature were sent from and/or received on work issued mobile phones. It is also alleged that similar messages were sent and received by some of the officers on a closed WhatsApp group.
During the hearing, which began today, Jason Beer QC, acting on behalf of Hampshire Constabulary, said: “This was a specialist police unit that operated in relative isolation to the rest of the force.”
Mr Beer said that that “isolation and lack of leadership and supervision from Mr Ireson and DS Wilcox” led to a “toxic and abhorrent culture”.
He added: “It was a plain nasty unit. The officers joked about migrants having a long swim and drown in the sea.
“It was a unit that was disrespectful.”
The inquiry heard conversations that were had between the accused and others that worked within the unit while the bugging device was installed.
On a number of occasions, they are alleged to have degraded woman, saying they were “sugar tits” and that “they should show officers their tits”.
They are also alleged to have made an array of racist comments. In one conversation black ink had been put on PC Oldfield’s computer which had transferred to hands and face.
In a transcript read out to the hearing PC Oldfield said: “I have been blacked up, some f*****r “f*****d me”. He also said: “I’ve got black s*”t on me.”
On another occasion when speaking to a black police officer one of the accused “put on a fake Caribbean accent”, the victim is then accused of “being flown to England from Africa in a crate having been stolen from Africa, having been taken to London Zoo”.
They also made several homophobic comments calling people “queers” during several conversations and using the phrase “horrible tranny f******s”.
It is alleged that the breaches of the Standards of Professional Behaviour outlined are so serious that, if proven, dismissal would be justified and, as such, it is alleged that the behaviour amounts to gross misconduct.
PC Oldfield is also alleged to have attended work on April 1 2018 while unfit for duty due to excessive alcohol consumption the previous evening/that morning, which if proven is a breach of the fitness for duty and /or discreditable conduct Standards of Professional Behaviour.
For those officers in a supervisory role, Mr Ireson and DS Willcox, it is alleged that they held a leadership position and as such carried a responsibility to ensure that the team, as well as them personally, adhered to the Standards of Professional Behaviour. In addition to the above, their failure to do so is alleged to be a breach of the Standards of Professional Behaviour relating to duties and responsibilities and orders and instructions.
DS Willcox is also alleged to have falsely recorded hours and overtime on 23 March 2018 which is alleged to be a breach of the Standards of Professional Behaviour relating to honesty and integrity and discreditable conduct.
The hearing continues.