Richard Spurr 1am - 4am
Eight Met Police officers guilty of gross misconduct over offensive Whatsapps about Katie Price's son Harvey
13 April 2023, 11:58 | Updated: 13 April 2023, 12:25
Eight serving and former Metropolitan Police officers have been found guilty of "gross misconduct" over "discriminatory and offensive" messages they shared, including some which made fun of Katie Price's disabled son.
The officers - seven men and one woman - were found to have sent sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic and disablist comments in a WhatsApp group called "Secret Squirrel Shit" between May 17, 2016 and June 26, 2018.
Legal chair Christopher McKay described gross misconduct as a "breach of the standards of professional behaviour that is so serious as to justify dismissal", during the fifth day of hearings at Palestra House in Southwark, central London, on Thursday.
He found each former and serving officer to have committed gross misconduct over their own messages, as well as by "failing to challenge or report" the conduct of others in the group.
The hearing concerned former sergeant Luke Thomas, former acting sergeant Luke Allen, former Pc Kelsey Buchan, former Pc Carlo Francisco, former Pc Lee South, former Pc Darren Jenner, Pc Glynn Rees, and Officer B, who has been granted anonymity.
Their messages included derogatory comments about 20-year-old Mr Price, who suffers from Prader-Willi syndrome and autism, and about a junior female officer, known in the hearings as Officer A.
Mr McKay said Officer B, who can be named at the end of proceedings, posted an edited photograph of Mr Price in the chat with the caption: "You've heard of elf on a shelf, now get ready for Harvey Price eating Uncle Ben's basmati rice after trying to read three blind mice on spice."
Mr McKay said: "The rhyme has a racist tone and refers to his disability - he is partially sighted.
"There is no need to refer to Uncle Ben's rice unless pointing to the racial origins of Uncle Ben and Harvey Price being similar.
"The words 'trying to read' also highlight his disability."
Mr McKay said the post was a "significant breach of the standard of equality and diversity", "inappropriate and offensive" to Mr Price, and constitutes "gross misconduct".
The panel found the most senior-ranking officer in the group, Mr Thomas, "appears to have been one of the most active participants" in the WhatsApp group.
Mr Thomas mocked Mr Price's weight in some messages, called Officer A "f****** ugly", and joked that he should name his dog "Auschwitz", "Adolf" or "Fred" or "Ian" after "my two favourite child sex killers".
Mr McKay said: "Given his supervisory role as a sergeant, he failed to adequately supervise or guide his team in respect of conduct.
"His failings are extremely serious.
"He could and should have closed the WhatsApp group as soon as the highly inappropriate nature of the messages became apparent.
"Instead he became one of its main contributors. This was undoubtedly gross misconduct."