Benjamin Hannam: Former Met PC who was neo-Nazi group member is jailed

Image source, Met Police

Image caption,

Benjamin Hannam is the first British officer to be convicted of a terrorism offence

A Met Police officer who was convicted of being part of a banned neo-Nazi terrorist group has been jailed.

Benjamin Hannam was found guilty on 1 April of membership of the extreme-right group National Action, which he left before joining the Met.

The 22-year-old was also convicted of possessing documents useful to a terrorist and of fraud over lies on his police application.

He was jailed at the Old Bailey for four years and four months.

Hannam was the first serving British officer to be convicted of a terrorism offence.

Jurors found Hannam guilty of two counts of possessing documents useful to a terrorist and two counts of fraud.

The fraud involved over £66,000 he earned from the Met after joining in 2018, while the documents related to a knife-fighting guide and a manual written by Anders Behring Breivik - the man responsible for murdering 77 people in Norway in 2011.

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Image caption,

Officers found a National Action business card and badges in Hannam's bedroom

Judge Anthony Leonard QC said the offences were so serious that only a custodial term was appropriate.

He said the nature of anti-Semitic material held by Hannam was "horrible and deeply troubling".

Timeline

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Image caption,

Benjamin Hannam (second right) with other activists after National Action was banned

2016 - Joins NA and regularly attends meetings before the group was banned in December

2017 - Becomes a part of NA's successor version called NS131 - which was also outlawed in September. His application to the Met is made in the summer, only days after he had attended an NS131 event

2018 - Enrols with Met Police and is passed out in front of Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick the following year

2020 - Arrested by police and subsequently charged

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Image caption,

Hannam was filmed taking part in a boxing session for members of the banned group

Judge Leonard told Hannam that he had "no doubt that your autism played a part in your offending".

He said that, in committing fraud, the defendant had "abused the trust" of the police and public.

"You have harmed public trust in the police by your deceit," he said.

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Jurors were shown a video of the PC spraying the group's symbol on a derelict building in 2017

The prosecution could not say that Hannam was preparing to make explosives or employ the knife-fighting techniques.

Hannam pleaded guilty to one count of possessing prohibited images of children, details of which were read out during the sentencing.

When his home was searched by detectives last year, his computer was found to contain a folder of "anime cartoons" of children and young people Hannam had downloaded.

Prosecutor Dan Pawson-Pounds said: "Although most of the files in this folder did not show any sexual acts, there was a series of 12 drawings of the same hand-drawn girl, who appeared to be eight or nine years old, engaged in acts of intercourse."

Mr Pawson-Pounds said that aggravating features in relation to the prohibited images included the age of the child depicted, and the fact she looked distressed in some images and was wearing a school uniform.

Video caption,

Daniel Sandford: "Why did you join a terrorist organisation and then join the police?"

Jurors were told Hannam had remained part of a successor version of NA, called NS131, after the original group was banned in December 2016.

He later lied to police about his far-right past on his Met application form.

During a police training session on extremism, Hannam was actually shown videos relating to NA and one of his associates, a senior member of the group called Mark Jones, the trial heard.

Hannam was arrested last March after being identified through a database relating to a neo-Nazi web forum was leaked online by anti-fascists.

In his bedroom, officers found an NA business card and badges, as well as writings about his involvement with the group.

On the day the organisation was banned in December 2016, Hannam had transferred the knife-fighting manual from his computer to folder named "NA" on a memory stick.

In mitigation, Ailsa Williamson said her client had "matured" since his involvement with NA and that he had taken a different path by joining the police and a church.

Ms Williamson read a character statement from a member of the Mormon church Hannam joined.

She asked for a reduction in Hannam's sentence due to his autism diagnosis.

'Out-dated and weak'

Following the hearing, advocacy group Hope not Hate welcomed Hannam's jail sentence.

A spokesman said: "He hid his extremist, violent politics and served as a police officer while a member of an organisation that plotted white supremacist terror.

"The authorities must learn lessons from the Ben Hannam case.

Vetting procedures failed because they were out-dated and weak."

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Image caption,

Benjamin Hannam was sacked by the Met Police after he was convicted in April

The Met's Cdr Richard Smith described Hannam's offending as "unique".

He said the former PC had "joined and engaged with a right-wing terrorism organisation, whose views are the antithesis of police values.

"He then lied about his past links to this group when applying to become a police officer" but "his past caught up with him," he said.

"This case illustrates the real and immediate risk posed by hate-filled ideologies and those who promote them online and elsewhere," Cdr Smith added.

One of the country's most senior counter-terrorism officers defended the force's vetting procedures, while admitting they are being looked at.

The Met's Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, who is the National Police Chiefs Council's counter-terrorism lead, told Times Radio it would be "foolish" for him to say vetting procedures were not being reviewed nationally because of the case.

He said: "No vetting process is 100%, the judge recognised the vetting process wasn't to blame here, in this particular case.

"There has to be a balance, there's both resource and people's privacy to consider and if people thought that the might of the UK intelligence community and counter-terrorism policing were going to look at every single aspect of your life because you applied, I think that would have a rather chilling effect on joining the police".