A “toxic and abhorrent culture” in a police force’s serious and organised crime unit saw officers use racist, sexist and homophobic language, a hearing has been told.
Six officers who worked for Hampshire Constabulary are facing gross misconduct proceedings after being accused of “discriminatory”, “inappropriate” and “offensive” comments about colleagues and members of the public.
Some of the alleged remarks were covertly recorded at the force’s Northern Police Investigation Centre in Basingstoke.
Jason Beer QC, representing Hampshire Constabulary, told the hearing that the unit worked in “relative isolation” which appeared to have contributed to a “toxic and abhorrent culture” where profanities were a “stock-in-trade”.
Women were referred to as “sl**s” and “sweet t***”, while an officer’s partner was described as “an absolute whore”, Mr Beer said.
It was said that a black officer had been “flown from Africa in a crate” and taken to London Zoo and in one incident, an officer “joked about migrants having a long swim and drowning in the sea” – the hearing was told.
It was also said that the unit’s only black officer had used forged documents from Nigeria, using the “racist stereotype that people from Nigeria are fraudsters”, Mr Beer said.
Officers also allegedly used “highly offensive” homophobic and transphobic language, including one who was recorded saying “horrible tranny f*****”.
“None of this behaviour was challenged or reported,” Mr Beer told the hearing.
He added that a “toxic and abhorrent culture” was “inconsistent with the values and standards of the police service in the 21st century”.
The officers facing the gross misconduct hearing are Detective Inspector Timothy Ireson, Detective Sergeant Oliver Lage, Detective Sergeant Gregory Willcox, trainee Detective Constable Andrew Ferguson, PC James Oldfield and PC Craig Bannerman.
DI Ireson has retired and PC Bannerman has resigned since the covert recording was made between 9 March 2018 and 2 April 2018 following complaints to a whistleblowing service.
PC Oldfield is also accused of attending work on 1 April 2018 while unfit for duty “due to excessive alcohol consumption the previous evening/that morning”.
It is alleged he “turned up at work intoxicated” after drinking while watching a boxing match, the hearing was told.
Meanwhile, DS Willcox faces a further allegation that he falsely recorded hours and overtime on 23 March 2018, Hampshire Constabulary have said.
All six officers deny gross misconduct.
The hearing is being held at Hampshire Police’s headquarters in Eastleigh and being live-streamed for a limited number of journalists and members of the public to watch at Hope Church in Winchester.
Ahead of the hearing, a Hampshire Constabulary spokesman said: “It is alleged that the breaches of the standards of professional behaviour outlined are so serious that, if proven, dismissal would be justified and, as such, it is alleged that the behaviour amounts to gross misconduct.”
The hearing is expected to last up to three weeks.
“The toll of this year is immense. Just remember that it’s a relay; we can all share the baton. You’re not alone. Better days are coming. You deserve to see them. Sending [heart emoji]”.
The Vampire Diaries star Joseph Morgan wrote: “Hello Edmund. Stay strong mate”.
Speaking on This Morning on Monday, Mr O’Leary, who has struggled for depression for around 10 years, said: “The reaction to my tweet has been absolutely phenomenal.”
He said the tweet was prompted by him feeling isolated on Friday night when there “wasn’t much more I could take”.
“Nearly 19 million people across the globe have viewed my rather, in my opinion, mundane tweet,” he added.
Mr O’Leary, a trustee of mental health charity Love Me Love My Mind, said that even though he would love to respond to every person who has reached out to him, he would “have to employ staff” to do so.
Other replies to his tweet, which has been “liked” nearly 300,000 times, ranged from people inviting him out for coffee in Surrey, where Mr O’Leary lives, as well as recruitment experts offering advice on his CV.
Mr O’Leary has been open about the difficulties he has faced during the coronavirus pandemic and has been applying for “job after job” but has so far been unsuccessful in finding work.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, he said this year has been “absolutely horrendous” and his mental health had “really taken a battering”.
“I live on my own, I’m divorced, I don’t have much family support,” he added.
The letter, first published by political blogger Bubble Wales and verified by Sky News, said “pubs, cafes, restaurants, hairdressers etc – will all be closed”.
In response to the leaked letter, a Welsh government spokesperson said: “The measures we have put in place at both a local and a national level, with help from the public, have kept the spread of the virus under check.
“However, there is a growing consensus that we now need to introduce a different set of measures and actions to respond to the virus as it is spreading across Wales more quickly through the autumn and winter.”
The new chief executive of British Airways has warned that the UK “will get left behind” if it continues to discourage travel through its quarantine regime.
Sean Doyle, who took over the role a week ago after Alex Cruz was ousted in a group leadership shake-up, used remarks at an industry event to demand that the two week self-isolation requirement is scrapped.
He argued the so-called red list was damaging the UK’s economic recovery and the airline industry’s battle for survival from the COVID-19 pandemic.
My Doyle further insisted that the risk to public health from flying was low.
He pointed to data from industry body IATA which suggested that since the start of 2020 there had been 1.2 billion people travelling but only 44 coronavirus cases linked to flights.
He told the Airlines 2050 conference: “We believe the best way to reassure people is to introduce a reliable and affordable test before flying.
“For the UK, this approach reduces the stress on the NHS testing systems within the UK and on policing the quarantine system.
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“If we look abroad to our near neighbours, we see that business travel and indeed tourism is being prioritised by some countries.
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Arrivals from Portugal now face quarantine
“We need to get the economy moving again and this just isn’t possible when you’re asking people to quarantine for 14 days.
“It’s our view that even if that quarantine period is reduced to seven days, people won’t travel here and the UK will get left behind.”
The government is unlikely to relent at this stage given the fact that infection rates are surging, and as it steps up efforts to ease pressure on the NHS through local lockdowns.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the creation of a new task force earlier this month, aimed at creating a testing regime to be used at points of entry to the UK in the hope quarantine rules could be relaxed.
He told the conference that while he recognised the “devastating” impact of the pandemic on aviation, there were also concerns that border tests “wouldn’t capture sufficient information on those who are asymptomatically carrying the virus”.
British Airways is expected to have cut up to 13,000 jobs by the time it completes its virus crisis restructuring.
A jobs tracker by Sky News shows the airline sector is suffering the worst, with airports also among those to have laid off significant numbers of staff.
BA has previously said it does not expect demand to recover its pre-crisis levels until 2023.
There was, however, a glimmer of better news for aviation on Monday when it was confirmed that Flybe had been bought out of administration and its new owners hoped to resume regional flights at some point in early 2021.
Prosecutors are being given a list of myths and stereotypes they should be prepared to challenge when handling rape and sexual assault cases.
The new guidance includes advice on challenging assumptions over victims sharing nude selfies or having met their attacker via a dating app.
It is the first time in eight years that the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) guidelines for lawyers have been fully updated.
The legal guidance, which comes into use on 1 November, includes false statements such as “if you send sexual images or messages prior to meeting someone, then having sex is inevitable” and “if you meet men online or through hook-up apps you want sex and should be ready to offer sex”.
Siobhan Blake, CPS rape lead, said explicit photos and use of such apps should not be taken as “blanket consent” for sexual contact.
She said: “The critical issue is around consent, and the giving and understanding of consent.
“We must not as a society or indeed as prosecutors get distracted by some of the peripheral behaviours that might seem quite unusual to us.
“In essence a person can send a naked selfie for instance one day, that is not any sort of blanket consent to a sexual encounter on another day.
“Simply because somebody’s on a hook-up app, it doesn’t mean that they’re giving some sort of blanket consent to any sort of sexual contact.”
Other myths in the list include:
Sending explicit photos mean a person gives consent
The use of apps means consent
The type of clothing a person is wearing mean they give consent
Flirting means a person wants to have sex
A person being intoxicated mean the attacker does not bear responsibility
The guidance also highlights the increasing number of rapes and sexual assaults associated with “chemsex”, which may mean victims are concerned about being prosecuted for drug use.
It says: “Chemsex is the term used to describe sexual activity that occurs when the parties are under the influence of drugs taken immediately preceding and/or during the sexual activity. It is particularly commonplace within the homosexual community.
“Prosecutors should be aware that victims of rape and/or sexual assaults committed within the chemsex setting may be reluctant to engage with a prosecution for fear of disclosing offences they have committed with respect to the use or supply of prohibited drugs.”
It stresses the impact of trauma on victims that can hamper their ability to remember or give a consistent account of what happened.
At the end of July, CPS figures showed that the number of rape convictions had fallen to a record low in England and Wales.
Just 1,439 alleged rapists were convicted of rape or lesser offences in 2019/20 – down 25% from 1,925 the previous year.
The number of completed prosecutions also reached a record low, with 2,102 in 2019/20, compared to 3,034 in 2018/19, a fall of around 31%.
Greater Manchester MP Yasmin Qureshi has been admitted to hospital with coronavirus.
The Labour shadow minister, who represents Bolton South East in parliament, started showing COVID-19 symptoms two weeks ago and self-isolated but was taken to Royal Bolton Hospital with pneumonia on Saturday.
In a statement, she said: “Two weeks ago, I began to feel unwell. I then tested positive for COVID-19, so my family and I immediately self-isolated at home. I have not travelled to Westminster or anywhere else.
“I continued to work as best I could remotely, attending virtual meetings and doing casework, but after 10 days, I began to feel much worse and on Saturday I was admitted to the Royal Bolton Hospital with pneumonia.
“I’m being very well looked after and have nothing but praise and admiration for the wonderful staff at the hospital.
“They have been amazing throughout the process and I would like to extend my thanks to everyone working here in such difficult circumstances.”
The ITV presenter has two grown-up daughters – Molly and Ruby – with his wife Steph.
He told Cotton that he does not know “what my future is”, but added: “I know that I don’t want to hurt anyone anymore than I’ve already hurt them, but I also know that we are, us four, the same but different, and we’re finding our way.”
Ministers are being warned that £13bn of additional spending is needed each year to ensure the UK workforce can prosper in the future economy.
Research by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) showed 90% of people will need new skills by 2030.
The business lobby group argued that the UK faced a “stark choice” between investment in its people or sustained rates of high unemployment as technology evolves – challenging the most disadvantaged in our society particularly.
It said that at a time of growing automation, participation in training for those in lower-skilled jobs was 40% lower than that for higher-skilled workers.
The CBI added that the COVID-19 pandemic – which has forced unemployment to a three-year high – offered an opportunity to grow learning and skills.
Its director general, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, said the damage made investment in skills all the more important and would help the government meet its election pledge to spread prosperity.
“The right skills strategy can help every worker to progress their careers, drive up living standards and level-up the country,” she said.
“But a failure to act will leave businesses facing skills shortages and workers facing long-term unemployment. We are at a fork in the road that requires urgent and decisive action.
She also said it was time for an apprenticeship shake-up, arguing the apprenticeship levy had failed to deliver for both businesses and new workers alike.
The CBI’s recommendations included “training tax credits” for small and medium-sized firms and transforming job centres into one-stop “Jobs and Skills Hubs” to support workers looking to retrain.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson responded: “Our priority is making sure people across the country gain the skills we know employers value and that will help our economy recover as we build back better from coronavirus.
“The prime minister recently announced a new lifetime skills guarantee that will help support adults across the country to make lifelong learning a reality – opening doors for more people to realise their talents, develop new skills and get better jobs.
“To help boost apprenticeship opportunities, we are supporting employers to invest in the skilled workforce they need to recover and grow by offering £2,000 for each new apprentice they hire aged under 25 and £1,500 for those aged 25 and over, in recognition of the value apprentices of any age can bring to businesses and to our economic recovery.
“Our forthcoming white paper will also outline plans to build a high-quality further education system that will provide the skills that individuals, employers and the economy need to grow and thrive.”