Hampshire Police officers 'dismissed' following gross misconduct hearing

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Rachel Hepworth

Five out of six police officers in a "toxic" specialist unit of Hampshire Constabulary have been 'dismissed' by a disciplinary panel for their behaviour after they were bugged using bigoted and inappropriate language.

The officers, led by Detective Inspector Tim Ireson, were members of the Serious and Organised Crime Unit based in Basingstoke.

The disciplinary panel heard evidence that the unit had a toxic culture where the officers regularly made sexist, racist and homophobic remarks.

Between March and April 2018 secret recording equipment was set up, bugging the Basingstoke office, following a tip off.

Prosecutors said it captured offensive language and behaviour on a daily basis, also targeting people with disabilities and the one black officer on the team.  

Comments were also made over email and WhatsApp messages. Language it is said officers felt comfortable using because no one challenged or reported the behaviour.  

The outdated and offensive views we heard during the hearing have no place in society.

Zoe Wakefield, Chair of Hampshire Police Federation

Those in charge, Detective Inspector Tim Ireson and Detective Sergeant Gregory Willcox, were accused of failing to lead by example and allowing toxic behaviour to become embedded in the unit.

Following a disciplinary hearing, all six officers were found guilty of gross misconduct.

John Bassett, legally qualified chair, 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."

Police Investigation Centre in Basingstoke Credit: ITV News Meridian

Detective Sergeant Oliver Lage, Detective Sergeant Gregory Willcox and Pc James Oldfield have been dismissed.

Retired Detective Inspector Tim Ireson and former Pc Craig Bannerman would have been sacked if they had not already left the force.

Trainee Detective Constable Andrew Ferguson has been given a final written warning.

In a statement, Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney said: "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.

"Policing has never before been under so much appropriate scrutiny to ensure an inclusive environment for all our officers and staff to flourish and bring their best.

"There is no place in my force, or in policing more widely, for those who do not live up to this standard."

Meanwhile Zoe Wakefield, Chair of Hampshire Police Federation, says the organisation is supporting those who have been affected.

She said: "The outdated and offensive views we heard during the hearing have no place in society and they certainly have no place in policing. We should not let the awful language and terminology used by a very small number of police officers tarnish the hard work and dedication of thousands of police officers and staff in Hampshire who are out there every day bravely striving to keep people safe and catch criminals."