Man in his 60s arrested over 'racist and vile' WhatsApp group with former police officers

6 October 2022, 10:38 | Updated: 6 October 2022, 18:39

Rob Lewis (l) with Sir Mark Rowlet (top right) and Wayne Couzens (bottom right)
Rob Lewis (l) with Sir Mark Rowlet (top right) and Wayne Couzens (bottom right). Picture: Supplied/Alamy

By Stephen Rigley

A man has been arrested after a documentary alleged an ex Met Police officer set up a ‘vile’ WhatsApp chat that was flooded with racist memes and messages.

It comes after a former Met Officer, identified as Rob Lewis, was suspended by the Home Office over accusations he set up the WhatsApp group. There is no suggestion that he is the man who was arrested today.

Scotland Yard said in a statement this afternoon: "Shortly after 12:00hrs on Thursday, 6 October, a man aged in his 60s was arrested on suspicion of offences under the Communications Act and misconduct in a public office. He remains in custody at a south London police station."

Police did not confirm the name of the man arrested but said "the arrest does follow reporting by BBC News earlier today."

Mr Lewis has been put on leave from his UK Border Force job over "abhorrent" texts in the chat, with some alleged to include the repeated use of the word "P*ki".

There are also said to be "vile and deplorable" messages and memes about the Government's policy to deport migrants to Rwanda for processing, slurs about black MPs as well as abuse towards the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

There was at least one joke about the recent devastating flooding in Pakistan, where 1,700 have died and millions were displaced.

Several of the members of the WhatsApp group used to work for the Diplomatic Protection Group (DPG), the armed unit that guards Parliament and embassies.

Rob Lewis who was suspended after setting up WhatsApp group which was deluged with racist content
Rob Lewis who was suspended after it was claimed he set up the WhatsApp group which was deluged with racist content. Picture: social media

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Sarah Everard's murderer Wayne Couzens was in the group, it was reported.

Just two weeks ago two serving Met officers were convicted of sending grossly offensive misogynistic and racist messages in a WhatsApp group with Couzens.

The Home Office said it had suspended a member of staff.

In a statement it said: “We expect the highest standards of our staff and have a zero tolerance approach to anyone displaying racist, homophobic, misogynist or discriminatory behaviour,.

“Where we are made aware of such behaviour we will not hesitate to take decisive action.”

Commander Jon Savell, who is responsible for the Metropolitan Police’s professional standards, said the messages shared were “abhorrent”.

He said: “These messages are abhorrent and have absolutely no place in policing or society,”

“Their behaviour erodes the confidence that the public has in the police – a confidence that the vast majority of us in the Met works tirelessly day-in, day-out to maintain and improve.

“Racism, misogyny, homophobia or any other discriminatory behaviour has no place in the Met.

“Where such behaviour is identified it will be dealt with robustly, but we will also be actively seeking out those whose actions bring shame to us."

Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley added: “My plan for reform in the Met is already under way. I will be ruthless in rooting out those corrupting officers and staff, including racists and misogynists, from our organisation.

“I have taken over as the leader of an organisation that has been far too weak in taking on those who undermine the honest and dedicated majority who determinedly serve the public.

“That will change and I will continue to seek out those, from both within and outside the Met, with that constructive anger who can help us reform.”