independent.ie- The conviction of London police officer Ben Hannam for belonging to an extreme right-wing group is a “unique” case, according to Scotland Yard’s counter terrorism chief.
Commander Richard Smith was speaking after it emerged that Hannam joined the Metropolitan Police after lying about his association with banned neo-Nazi organisation National Action.
Hannam (22), of Enfield, north London, was found guilty at the Old Bailey of membership of the banned right-wing extremist group National Action.
He was also convicted of lying on his Metropolitan Police application and having terror documents detailing knife combat and making explosive devices.
Hannam is the first British officer to be convicted of a terrorism offence.
He was released on conditional bail ahead of sentencing on April 23.
Hannam had been working as a probationary officer for nearly two years when a list of users of the extreme right-wing forum Iron March was leaked online.
Once his email was linked to the forum, investigators uncovered his association with National Action up to the month he applied to join the police in July 2017. “We were investigating individuals linked to the Iron March forum, which carries extreme right-wing material,” Mr Smith, who is head of the Metropolitan Police’s counter terrorism command, said.
“We were shocked to find one of the individuals we were seeking to identify turned out to be a serving probationary police officer.
“Ben Hannam obviously lied on his application form to join the Met.
“He would never have been able to join had we known then of his interest in the extreme right wing and his previous membership of National Action.
“Once we identified his involvement with that organisation, we took immediate steps to arrest him and put him before the court.”
He said there was no evidence that Hannam was part of a “deliberate” attempt by the extreme right to infiltrate the force.
A review of his work has not revealed any sign that he tried to draw others into his extreme ideology.
“We found no evidence that he used his position as a police officer to further his extremist views,” Mr Smith said:
During his time in the force, Hannam had no direct access to the Police National Computer, although he could have asked others to do checks on cases he was dealing with.
The Met’s vetting process for new recruits is “proportionate”, Mr Smith said. “The processes we have to vet potential members of the police service are proportionate, that’s not to say they cannot be absolutely exhaustive.”
He declined to “speculate” on whether a face-to-face interview, rather than a vetting form, would have exposed Hannam’s views.
The officer said a reference from the university Hannam attended in the autumn of 2017 did not raise any issues.
“To the best of my knowledge this is a unique case,” Mr Smith added.
“I’m not aware of any other police officer ever facing prosecution for membership of a terrorist group.
“I would reassure the public by pointing out how swiftly we acted, as soon as he was identified, to arrest and prosecute him.
“Ben Hannam had been in the Metropolitan Police less than two years when we got this information and we acted immediately.
“People join the Met Police Service with the intent of keeping people safe from harm.
“The views Ben Hannam expressed online and was interested in online are totally incompatible with being a police officer.”
The court had heard that Hannam was radicalised online and joined National Action’s London branch before it was banned.