LONDON — A British police officer who lied about his membership of a banned neo-Nazi group was sentenced to four years and four months in jail on Friday.
Benjamin Hannam — Britain’s first serving policeman to be convicted of a terrorism offence, according to Reuters — was sentenced at London’s Old Bailey court for previously being a member of the far-right National Action. The group was banned under U.K. terrorism laws in 2016.
Hannam, 22, was also found guilty of two counts of fraud and two counts of holding a document likely to be used by a terrorist, in a trial in April. He separately pleaded guilty to possessing an indecent image of a child.
Hannan, who is from north London, was a probationary officer with the Metropolitan Police, the U.K.’s biggest police force, covering Greater London.
The court heard during the trial that the Met’s counter-terror officers linked him to an online profile active on a far-right extremist forum, Iron March, frequented by members of National Action.
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After seizing his computer and a USB memory stick, police found he had visited web pages linked to National Action as well as pages relating to its inclusion on the U.K.’s list of banned terrorist organizations.
Investigators also found a manual on how to use a knife to seriously injure or kill and a document written by Anders Breivik, the right-wing extremist who killed 77 people in a 2011 terrorist attack in Norway.
Prosecutors said Hannam attended a National Action meeting in a London pub in 2016 and continued to attend events until summer 2017.
In April 2016, before the National Action was banned, another user showed interested in the group and according to prosecutors Hannam replied: “Always good for more people to join, means we can arrange more stuff which is just more fun for everybody!”
Vetting forms ask prospective officers applying to join the Met if they have any association with far-right groups — on two occasions Hannam said he did not.
His association appears to have ended before his police training began in 2018, but the police force makes clear that prior involvement would have been enough to disqualify him.
Speaking after the trial in April, Jenny Hopkins from the Crown Prosecution Service said: “His lies have caught up with him and he’s been exposed as an individual with deeply racist beliefs who also possessed extremist publications of use to a terrorist.”
In an internal police hearing last week, he was found guilty of gross misconduct and had his contract terminated.
Right-wing terrorism is of increasing concern to Britain’s law enforcement agencies. The Home Office said potential terrorist cases involving suspected far-right extremist referred to its specialist terror prevention service increased 22 percent in the year to March 2020.