A former British police officer has been sentenced for terrorism offenses. PC Benjamin Hannam, 22 (22.07.1998), of north London, was identified by a proactive counterterrorism police investigation as having previously been a member of a proscribed right-wing terrorist organization when he was linked to an online profile by Counter Terrorism (CT) officers.
He was sentenced on April 30, at the Old Bailey court to a total of four years and four months imprisonment, plus one year on extended licence.
This followed a trial at the Old Bailey, after which Hannam was found guilty of membership of a proscribed organization (National Action), two counts of fraud by false representation and two counts of possession of documents likely to be of use to a terrorist.
After he delivered his sentencing, His Honour Judge Anthony Leonard QC commended the Counter Terrorism detectives for their “painstaking work” and investigation into Hannam.
Commander Richard Smith, head of the Metropolitan Police’s (Met) Counter Terrorism Command, which led the investigation into former PC Hannam, said:
“This is a unique case and today’s sentence reflects the gravity of the offences committed by former PC Hannam. Hannam joined and engaged with a right-wing terrorism organization, whose views are the antithesis of police values. He then lied about his past links to this group when applying to become a police officer. His past caught up with him when he was identified as part of a wider, proactive investigation by the Counter Terrorism Command, who moved quickly to arrest him and bring him to justice.
“This case illustrates the real and immediate risk posed by hate-filled ideologies and those who promote them online and elsewhere. We need friends and family to look out for those who might be vulnerable to radicalization and at risk of being seduced online by toxic ideology. If you have concerns, then please, act early and contact us in confidence, as we can help before it is too late.”
In addition, but unrelated to the charges above, Hannam also previously pleaded guilty to possession of a prohibited image of children, which officers had found on one of his digital devices in the course of their investigation into his membership of National Action.
Following the criminal trial, an accelerated gross misconduct hearing was held on April 21, which heard that the conduct of former PC Hannam amounted to a breach of the standards of professional behavior in respect of discreditable conduct.
Although still a serving officer at the time of the hearing, PC Hannam had tendered his resignation from the Met in March 2021 after standing trial for the offenses.
The chair of the misconduct hearing, Met Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball considered all of the evidence presented by the appropriate authority and the allegation of discreditable conduct was found proven as gross misconduct. The result was that he was dismissed without notice.
Former PC Hannam came to the attention of Counter Terrorism detectives in February 2020, as they were investigating individuals linked to a far right extremist internet forum ‘Iron March’ – some of whom were suspected of being members of the proscribed National Action group. The focus of the investigation was to identify any potential U.K.-based individuals from the forum and link their online persona to their real-world identity.
When Hannam’s real-world identity became clear to officers and that he was a serving officer within the Met, fast-time enquiries were carried out and he was arrested at his home in north London on March 5 2020.
Hannam was subsequently charged with membership of a proscribed organization relating to his affiliation with National Action and two counts of fraud, relating to application and vetting forms he submitted to join the Met. He was also charged with two counts of possession of documents likely to be of use to a terrorist – these related to documents found on a USB memory stick.
During the warrant at his home, officers seized various digital devices belonging to the probationary police officer. These were analyzed and further evidence was found confirming he was linked to the Iron March profile.
Analysis of his computer showed that he had used it to access the Iron March forum and visit web pages linked to National Action. Officers discovered that he had also visited web pages relating to the proscription of National Action, making it obvious that he was aware that the group was deemed to be a terrorist organisation by January 2017.
Hannam also moved various files relating to the banned group into a new folder indicated by ‘NA’ within his USB memory stick.
Officers were sure that he knew about its proscription and that by storing the files on his memory stick in this way, he understood that the material related to National Action which was now banned. It also demonstrated that he was continuing his involvement with the group at the point they became proscribed in December 2016 by the then Home Secretary.
After his arrest, officers were able to piece together evidence that Hannam had not only been engaging with the banned group online but that he had had direct involvement with them in the real world too.
The court heard that on March 6 2016, Hannam had attended a National Action meeting in a pub in Paddington and that until the summer of 2017, he had continued to attend various activities and events organized by the group.
On July 19 2017 he applied to join the Met, and then later in October, he submitted the associated vetting form as part of that process. On his application and vetting forms he lied that he had no associations with or membership of extreme right wing groups. Had he been honest, this would have automatically precluded him from joining the Met.
All known involvement by Hannam with National Action had ended by September 30 2017, prior to the start of his police training on March 26 2018.