Three police officers at Hampshire Constabulary’s serious organised crime unit (Socu) have been sacked for gross misconduct after their ‘lads’ pad’ was secretly bugged following concerns raised by a whistleblower.
The panel heard a catalogue of sexist, racist, homophobic and ableist language and commentary that has rightly shocked us all and understandably left people with many questions about how this has been allowed to happen” – Olivia Pinkney, Hampshire chief constable
A further two detectives would have been dismissed had they not left the force already.
Detective sergeant Oliver Lage, DS Gregory Willcox and PC James Oldfield were dismissed without notice, while their retired commanding officer, detective inspector Tim Ireson, and former PC Craig Bannerman would have been sacked by the force’s disciplinary tribunal, it stated.
Trainee detective constable Andrew Ferguson was given a final written warning.
Hampshire Constabulary chief constable Olivia Pinkney said: “During the hearing, the panel heard a catalogue of sexist, racist, homophobic and ableist language and commentary that has rightly shocked us all and understandably left people with many questions about how this has been allowed to happen.
“I have always said that policing is built upon the values of professionalism, compassion, courage and integrity and the public have a right to expect the highest standards from the officers and staff who are entrusted to keep them safe.
“These officers have failed to deliver on the promise they made to uphold fundamental human rights and accord equal respect to all people, the oath they declared when they took the office of constable.”
The six officers have apologised but one said they felt they were being “made an example of”. In total, 20 police officers and civilian employees from Hampshire Socu North unit – referred to by other staff as a “lads’ pad” – faced some sort of disciplinary action.
During the misconduct hearing at Hampshire Police’s Eastleigh headquarters, it was heard a “toxic, abhorrent culture” developed with officers using offensive terms for women, black people, immigrants, disabled, gay and transgender people and foreign nationals.
John Bassett, chair of the disciplinary panel, said: “Police officers, whether individually or as a unit, cannot pick and choose which of the standards they will abide by. In particular, it is not open to members of a particular unit to disregard some of the standards in the belief that this makes them more of an effective or cohesive unit.
Toxic workplace cultures
“In the panel’s opinion, the matters it has found proved are the antithesis of what the public expects and what is clearly set out in the standards of public behaviour. The conduct in question was shameful.”
Explicit fake pornographic images of the royal family were shared on a work WhatsApp group while the covert recordings included descriptions of women as “sl**s” and “whores” and comments that the only black officer in the unit had arrived from Africa in a crate.
Zoe Wakefield, chair of the Hampshire Police Federation, said the detectives’ behaviour should not “tarnish the hard work and dedication” of other officers. “The outdated and offensive views we heard during the hearing have no place in society and they certainly have no place in policing,” she said.
The sacked officers’ names would be placed on a public list of banned officers.
Pinkney added: “I would hope that the public have seen that we don’t accept this type of behaviour, that when it is raised that we will take action and we will be open and transparent about that, no matter how difficult that may be.”