Hampshire 'toxic' police unit officers guilty of gross misconduct

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image captionFormer Det Insp Tim Ireson led the unit for two years

Six members of a "toxic" police unit have been found guilty of gross misconduct after their "offensive" conversations were secretly recorded.

Investigators bugged the Northern Serious Organised Crime Unit's office in Basingstoke, Hampshire, and analysed messages over a 24-day period in 2018.

The Northern Serious Organised Crime Unit was "homophobic, racist and sexist", a misconduct panel heard.

The panel is due to consider sanctions at a later date.

Jason Beer QC, prosecuting, previously said a "toxic, abhorrent culture" had developed amongst some officers because of a "lack of leadership".

He said vulgar language was the "stock-in-trade" of the unit, where the team's only black officer was often a target of abuse.

Mr Beer said the accused men "habitually" made offensive remarks about women, black people, immigrants, disabled, gay and transgender people and foreign nationals.

image captionThe six men were based at the Serious and Organised Crime Unit in Basingstoke

The panel listed numerous instances where gross misconduct was committed.

In one case, retired Det Insp Tim Ireson, who led the unit for two years, was described as failing to properly manage an officer who turned up for work drunk.

Det Sgt Gregory Willcox failed to supervise the team, while Det Sgt Oliver Lage made "highly offensive and racist comments" about the black colleague, the panel found.

Other instances of gross misconduct the panel recorded included PC Andrew Ferguson sending colleagues a fake pornographic image of members of the royal family, and former PC Craig Bannerman failing to challenge "the most serious" abuse recorded by investigators.

Another of the accused officers, PC James Oldfield, interrupted the panel as the verdicts were read out, saying: "Absolutely unbelievable… nonsense."

Hampshire Constabulary said disciplinary action was also taken against 14 other officers and police staff from the unit.

In a statement, the force said the offences came to light when an anonymous source made allegations via its confidential reporting system.

It said it would respond fully after the panel reconvenes on 4 January to consider sanctions.

Michael Lane, Hampshire police and crime commissioner, said the ruling showed the six officers did not hold themselves to the "highest standards of ethical behaviour".

He said: "Hampshire Constabulary and I take, and have always taken, this matter very seriously."

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