A group of six former London police officers were punished with suspended prison sentences for sharing offensive and racist messages on WhatsApp, including references to Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex.In a statement after the sentencing hearing Commander James Harman, who heads the Metropolitan Police’s Anti-Corruption and Abuse Command, said “the racist and discriminatory content of these messages is absolutely appalling”.
“Given the defendants once served as police officers, we recognise that this case may further damage confidence in policing,” Harman said, as quoted by Reuters.Newsnight’s investigation found the six retired officers sent the messages between August 2018 and September 2022, a period when all had left the force.
Prince Harry’s wife Meghan, the wife of King Charles’ younger son, received three racist messages. Meghan’s mother is black while her father is white.
A message also included a picture of the late Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip, while others mentioned Charles’ eldest son and heir Prince William and his wife Kate, and Rishi Sunak, Britain’s first black prime minister.Several former officers, aged in their 60s, pleaded guilty to sending offensive messages last September and received prison sentences ranging from six to 14 weeks, suspended for one year.
The five men had all worked in various departments at the police but had all served in the Diplomatic Protection Group, where one former member was convicted of murder and rape in the last two years, and another was jailed for committing 24 rapes.
A trial at City of London Magistrates’ Court last month convicted Michael Chadwell, 62, of sending an offensive message despite pleading not guilty.Chadwell was sentenced to 10 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.
Britain’s largest police force, the Metropolitan Police, has been beset by scandals in recent years including racism, misogyny, and homophobia, according to an independent review in March.
Over 43,000 officers and staff will be rid of unsuitable individuals by its chief Mark Rowley, who took up the post last year.
(With Inputs from Reuters)