London, Apr 1 (PTI) A serving Scotland Yard police constable was found guilty on Thursday of being a member of a banned far-right organisation and possessing documents that could have been of use to a terrorist after an investigation by the police force’s Counter Terrorism Command.
Benjamin Hannam, 22, was also found guilty at the Old Bailey court in London of lying about his membership of National Action on his job application and police vetting forms so he could get a job as a police constable (PC) with the Metropolitan Police.
Following a trial, Hannam was found guilty of membership of a proscribed organisation, two counts of fraud by false representation and two counts of possession of documents likely to be of use to a terrorist. He will be sentenced by the same court on April 23.
“Benjamin Hannam would not have got a job as a probationary police constable if he’d told the truth about his membership of a banned far-right group,” said Jenny Hopkins, the Head of the Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
“His lies have caught up with him and he’s been exposed as an individual with deeply racist beliefs who also possessed extremist publications of use to a terrorist,' she said.
National Action was proscribed in the UK by the Home Office in December 2016. It was a neo-Nazi organisation that espoused homophobia, antisemitism, and racism and promoted violence and inter-racial hatred. Hannam said he had never been a member.
“The public expects police officers to carry out their duties with the very highest levels of honesty and integrity. Sadly, PC Hannam showed none of these qualities, firstly by joining and engaging with a far-right proscribed organisation, and then when he lied about his past links to this group when applying to become a police officer,” said Commander Richard Smith of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command.
“Thankfully, as part of a wider proactive investigation by officers in the Counter Terrorism Command, we were able to identify PC Hannam as being a member of a proscribed group and when we linked his online profile to his real-world identity, we quickly moved to arrest him,” he said.
Before the National Action group was banned, Hannam was posting comments about National Action on an online message board.
In April 2016, when another user showed interest in the group, Hannam wrote: “always good for more people to join, means we can arrange more stuff which is just more fun for everybody!” The prosecution said this showed that he was not just a member but sought to recruit others. There was also evidence from his notebook that he had attended National Action meetings in London and Liverpool in 2016.
“PC Hannam was a young man when he was radicalised and seduced online by this toxic ideology. Now, more than ever we need friends and family to look out for those who might be vulnerable to radicalisation and if you have concerns, then please, ACT Early and contact us in confidence, as we can help before it is too late,” added Commander Smith.
Hannam, who was suspended from duty following his arrest, will be urgently considered for an expedited misconduct hearing process by the Directorate of Professional Standards now that verdicts from the criminal proceedings against him are known, the Met Police said.
Hannam came to the attention of Counter Terrorism detectives in February 2020, as they were investigating individuals linked to a far-right extremist internet forum ‘Iron March’ – some of whom were suspected of being members of the proscribed National Action group.
The focus of the investigation was to identify any potential UK-based individuals from the forum and link their online persona to their real-world identity.
When Hannam’s real-world identity became clear to officers, showing that he was a serving officer within the Met, fast-time enquiries were carried out and Hannam was arrested at his home in north London on 5 March 2020.
Hannam was subsequently charged with membership of a proscribed organisation relating to his affiliation with National Action and two counts of fraud, relating to application and vetting forms he submitted to join the Met.
He was also charged with two counts of possession of documents likely to be of use to a terrorist – these related to documents found on a USB memory stick.
During the warrant at Hannam’s home, officers seized various digital devices belonging to the probationary police officer.
These were analysed and further evidence was found confirming he was linked to the Iron March profile. Analysis of his computer showed that he had used it to access the Iron March forum and visit web pages linked to National Action.
Officers discovered that he had also visited web pages relating to the proscription of National Action, making it obvious that he was aware that the group was deemed to be a terrorist organisation by January 2017.
Hannam also moved various files relating to the banned group into a new folder indicated by ‘NA’ within his USB memory stick.
Officers were sure that Hannam knew about its proscription and that by storing the files on his memory stick in this way, he understood that the material related to National Action which was now banned.
After his arrest, officers were able to piece together evidence that PC Hannam had not only been engaging with the banned group online but that he had had direct involvement with them in the real world too.
The court heard that on 6 March 2016, Hannam had attended a National Action meeting in a pub in Paddington, London, and that until the summer of 2017, he had continued to attend various activities and events organised by the group.
On 19 July 2017 he applied to join the Met, and then later in October, he submitted the associated vetting form as part of that process. On his application and vetting forms, Hannam lied that he had no associations with or membership of extreme right-wing groups. PTI AK NSA