Police watchdog makes recommendations to improve Met after officers took photos of murdered sisters

Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman taken from Bibaa's phone
Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman

The police watchdog has published a series of recommendations for the Metropolitan Police following an investigation into officers who took inappropriate photographs of murdered sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman at the scene of their deaths in a London park.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) report questioned the behaviour of senior managers and supervisors at Forest Gate police station, where disgraced PCs Deniz Jaffer and Jamie Lewis were based.

The pair had been assigned to guard the scene after Ms Henry, 46, and Ms Smallman, 27, were found dead in bushes in Fryent Country Park, Wembley, north-west London, in June 2020.

However, the officers instead walked onto the crime scene and took unauthorised photographs of the bodies that they then doctored and shared with fellow officers and members of the public over WhatsApp.

They were each jailed in December for two years and nine months having previously pleaded guilty to misconduct in public office.

The IOPC noted in its investigation that the officers shared "inappropriate and discriminatory" comments and images in a WhatsApp group containing 40 policing peers and said that "for their conduct to still go unchallenged, suggests an environment within Forest Gate Police Station where staff are either unwilling or afraid to challenge inappropriate conduct."

Former Met Police officers (l) Jamie Lewis and Deniz Jaffer (r) Credit: Met Police

The IOPC's two "fast-time" learning recommendations for the force were to ensure all Forest Gate officers adhere to the Code of Ethics and for managers to take personal responsibility for tackling inappropriate behaviour, while encouraging reporting of wrongdoing.

The Met said it has implemented the recommendations across the force's North East Command and is "working hard to rebuild the public’s trust and confidence that police officers will protect and respect them".

“Part of rebuilding that trust is making it impossible for such behaviour to be seen as acceptable, telling the public where we have got it wrong and what we are doing about it, and removing officers who have behaved in such an awful way," Commander Paul Brogden said.

Commander Brogden said the recommendations includes guidance on officers photographing crime scenes "for evidential purposes only with no exceptions".

He said that employees across the entire force had been briefed about "responsible use of social media, absolute adherence to professional boundaries and actively intervening and challenging wrong doing".

Last month, three officers who were sent images of the dead women admitted misconduct for for failing to report the images. They were each given a written warning.

The Met has also apologised to the family for the way it handled the initial missing persons investigation.

It admitted its response "fell short," following an earlier report by the police watchdog.

Last year Mina Smallman, the mother of the murdered sisters, criticised then-Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick's "shoddy way of behaving" and said she has not contacted her personally to apologise for her officers' actions.

"It’s shameful that the IOPC had to tell the Met that they should apologise," she said. "Too little too late."

In February the force asked Baroness Casey of Blackstock to lead a formal review into its culture and standards of behaviour after the IOPC said a series of linked investigations had found evidence of bullying and “inappropriate” behaviour including racism and misogyny within its ranks.

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