Five Met officers to face gross misconduct charges over sprinter Bianca Williams stop and search

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Five police officers could face the sack over the stop and search of two athletes who were driving through London with their baby.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said on Wednesday that an acting police sergeant and four police constables will all face a gross misconduct disciplinary hearing over the incident involving British sprinter Bianca Williams and her partner, Ricardo Dos Santos.

Ms Williams said she felt "vindicated" by the IOPC's decision.

Top Met bosses have come under fire for defending the force's officers, as the policing watchdog released its findings on Wednesday.

The probe concerned footage of the search on July 4 2020, during which the couple were handcuffed, was widely shared on social media, and later Ms Williams accused the police of having racially profiled the pair.

After the search, details of the couple’s three-month-old baby were also stored on a police database called Merlin, used to record information on children who become known to the authorities.

The IOPC said that a police unit had followed the couple as they drove through Maida Vale, west London, before stopping them and searching the couple for weapons, and Mr Dos Santos for drugs. Nothing was found.

Regional director Sal Naseem said: “All five officers – an acting police sergeant and four police constables – will face allegations they breached police standards of professional behaviour for duties and responsibilities and for equality and diversity.

“Four of them also face allegations that they breached the standards for use of force and for authority, respect and courtesy.

“Three of the five – all police constables – will face allegations that they breached the standards for honesty and integrity and one will face an allegation they breached the police standards of professional behaviour for orders and instructions.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the officers should face disciplinary proceedings as soon as possible Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

“These matters were assessed as gross misconduct so it will be for the disciplinary panel, led by an independent legally qualified chair to determine whether or not the allegations are proven.”

If gross misconduct is proven, the officers could face the sack.

A sixth officer will attend a misconduct meeting with force bosses over alleged breaches of the standards for authority, respect and courtesy, duties and responsibilities and for use of force, assessed as misconduct.

Former commissioner Dame Cressida Dick and acting Met boss Sir Stephen House have come under fire for speaking out in the weeks after the controversial stop and search.

Dame Cressida Dick Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

In a statement issued through her lawyers reacting to the IOPC's decision, Ms Williams said: “I feel particularly vindicated by the IOPC’s decision in light of ex-commissioner Cressida Dick’s public efforts to discredit and undermine our complaints, and to trivialise the experiences of black people in the UK and how we are policed.

“I sincerely hope that the Met’s culture of sweeping these issues under the carpet ends with the former commissioner.”

The sprinter was referring to comments made by Dame Cressida on LBC less than three weeks after the search, in which she said: “I don’t personally accept that what we have seen so far on the video in relation to the stop of Miss Williams reveals racism.

“Having seen some of the footage myself, I would say that any officer worth their salt would have stopped that car that was being driven in that manner.”

Dame Cressida has since stepped down from the force under pressure from City Hall, after Mayor London Sadiq Khan said he no longer had confidence in her amid a series of Met scandals.

The IOPC also investigated a complaint over comments made by the then deputy commissioner Sir Stephen on July 15 2020.

He told the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee that two internal Met professional standards teams had reviewed footage of the stop and “neither team saw anything wrong with it”.

On Wednesday the IOPC said the force should consider apologising for Sir Stephen’s comments.

It added: “The complainants believed it impacted negatively on their lives and their baby.

“We have directed that the MPS determine what action it should take and, in particular, whether it should apologise to the couple.”

The Met insisted that officers should be allowed to speak freely when questioned by scrutiny panels.

It released a statement saying: “Sir Stephen stands by his statement as being factually correct at the time and has written to the IOPC to reinforce the importance of senior officers being able to respond to questions from our scrutiny bodies openly and transparently, and for advice and clarification of the IOPC’s view of how he and his fellow chief officers, both in the Met and nationally, should respond to similar direct questioning in future.”

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Bas Javid, from the Met’s Directorate of Professionalism, said of the latest decision: “I acknowledge the IOPC’s direction in this case. We have co-operated fully with the IOPC’s investigation and, in accordance with their direction, are now arranging for an independently-led misconduct hearing to take place.

“I am sorry for the distress that this incident clearly caused Ms Williams and Mr Dos Santos.”

Mr Khan said: “This incident was understandably deeply distressing for Bianca Williams and Ricardo Dos Santos, and I, like many Londoners, was disturbed by the footage of what happened.

The Mayor continued: “I welcome the independent investigation by the IOPC and its findings. It is important there is no further delay and these officers now face gross misconduct proceedings as soon as possible.

“This case is yet another example of why it is vital that the next Commissioner has a more effective plan to tackle the serious cultural issues within the Met Police and to regain the trust of Londoners.”