Investigation launched after 'abhorrent' messages shared by Gwent Police officers

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An investigation has been launched after "abhorrent and vile" messages, shared between retired and serving police officers at Gwent Police, have been discovered on a mobile phone.

The Sunday Times reports that the phone belonged to former Gwent policeman Ricky Jones, who died by suicide in January 2020, and the messages where shared with the publication by one of his family members.

The paper said the nature of the content shared was "racist, homophobic and misogynistic" and shows Gwent Police officers "openly discussing the sexual harassment of junior female colleagues".

A statement put out by Gwent Police's Chief Constable Pam Kelly described the content they had been made aware of as "abhorrent" and "painting a picture of a toxic culture which does not represent" the force.

She also confirmed that Wiltshire Police would be managing an independent investigation using a phone and tablet provided to them in October. Ms Kelly added that any officers identified by that investigation as having breached "professional standards or the criminal threshold will be held accountable".

Chief Constable Kelly described the content as "abhorrent" and "painting a picture of a toxic culture which does not represent" the force.

According to The Sunday Times, the phone revealed pornographic material regularly being sent between officers in a group chat.

Some of the other content it reports to have seen includes highly offensive messages about Grenfell Tower, muslims and women.

Talking to the publication, one junior female officer claimed misogyny and sexual harassment where "the norm" within Gwent Police.

Another woman said it was like "an old school boys' club" that was "toxic", adding that females who tried to lodge complaints were left feeling dismissed or discredited.

The content was shared between serving and retired officers prior to 2020.

As well as describing the content as "abhorrent" and "vile", the Chief Constable of Gwent Police said: "The content shared with us paints a picture of a toxic culture which does not represent the majority of our service. 

"Over the past three years we’ve worked hard to make sure that our colleagues are clear about the high standard of professional behaviour we, and the public, expect from them."

She added: "The content shared with us is vile and these views have absolutely no place in Gwent Police.

"While the independent investigation is underway we’re unable to comment on the individual allegations but we have demonstrated that we do take professional standards of behaviour extremely seriously and will take action against any officer or staff member breaching them regardless of rank."

Ms Kelly also described several recent incidents where "Gwent Police has not always lived up to the standards" that are expected of them.

"The recent dismissal of three senior officers reflects our commitment to pursue and hold accountable those who let us all down," she said.

"And we will continue to challenge unacceptable behaviour in court or through the independently chaired disciplinary process.

"Last year we publicly apologised to two victims for our failure to support them appropriately when they raised concerns in 2017. 

"Since then we’ve ensured that anyone bringing issues forward can do so in a safe and supportive way, and remain supported throughout any investigation and subsequent disciplinary process."

Ms Kelly added that the force has set out their commitment "to become an anti-racist service".