Two Metropolitan police officers have been sacked after posting offensive messages in a group chat, including a racist joke about the Duchess of Sussex.
PC Sukhdev Jeer and PC Paul Hefford, who worked in a unit at Bethnal Green police station in east London, posted inappropriate, highly offensive and discriminatory content on WhatsApp in 2018.
Their actions, labelled “abhorrent and discriminatory”, amounted to gross misconduct, a tribunal decided on Friday, meaning they must be dismissed from the force.
They also failed to challenge and/or report other members of the group after receiving offensive messages.
The hearing at the Empress State Building, in west London, heard the posts, including one comparing Meghan to a “golliwog”, were “discriminatory and serious in nature”.
Messages from Richard Hammond, a former officer who was also in the group, were regarded as misconduct by the tribunal panel.
Maurice Cohen, the chairperson, said the panel came to the decision having assessed the seriousness of the behaviour, the culpability and the harm the messages caused. He said: “Dismissal is the only appropriate action.”
Cohen criticised the posts as “highly corrosive and discriminatory” to members of the public, “including those in the local community” they served.
He had said earier: “The postings in this group caused serious reputational damage to the Metropolitan police as a whole … They were mocking and discriminatory to many sections of society the Metropolitan police force was meant to be policing. Bethnal Green is an extremely diverse area.”
Cohen said the posts took place “over an extended period of time” and that the officers should have been aware of their “unacceptable” nature. He added: “[They] should have been aware these posts were overtly racist, ableist and sexist.”
Jeer, described as the “most active contributing member” of the group, posted a series of “highly discriminatory and offensive” pictures and messages. It was heard that in one message, Jeer shared an image of a “golliwog” toy that was captioned: “A sneak preview at Meghan’s wedding dress.”
Another picture of a young boy in a hoodie captioned “Monkey in the jungle”. A further post said: “Everyone is so politically correct these days. You can’t even say, ‘Black paint,’ you have to say, ‘Tyrone, can you please paint that wall?”’
Jeer had previously told the hearing he was “not in a good place” and had used the language to cope with “issues” that he had been experiencing. Cohen said: “In respect of culpability, Jeer’s content lacked thought and consideration.”
Barrister Ben Summers had argued that Jeer should not be dismissed over a “handful of inappropriate jokes” that caused “limited harm”. He described Jeer as a “long-serving” member of the force who should be allowed “an opportunity for learning” through a warning.
The tribunal heard that PC Hefford posted a message of two black men lying next to two white women. It was captioned: “Girls’ trip to Jamaica. One came back pregnant, the other came back with syphilis. (Just kidding, they’re both still missing.)”
Michael Shaw, representing Hefford, said the officer found his posts “embarrassing and difficult” and has learned a “sad lesson”. He added: “Simply sacking him won’t restore public confidence in the Met.”
Cohen, deciding that the pair’s actions amounted to gross misconduct, said: “These standards fell seriously short of those expected of a Metropolitan police officer.” He said Hefford had been “lacking in insight and remorse” following his behaviour.
Hammond also sent a “discriminatory message” about the London borough of Tower Hamlets, it was said.
Vishal Misra, representing the Met, said: “The panel has found the postings were abhorrent and discriminatory in nature and the damage it has done to public confidence is substantial and far-reaching … They have shown little by the way of remorse and contrition, minimising and deflecting what had been said to excuse behaviour rather than explain.”
Misra also said, “Trust once lost is not easily regained”, adding that dismissal was required to maintain public confidence in the force.
The Met, the UK’s largest police force, was placed under special measures this week following the uncovering of a litany of “systemic” failings in fighting crime and serving victims, with tens of thousands of crimes going unrecorded and errors in stop and search.