A British probationary police officer has been found guilty of being a member of a banned organization after a proactive investigation by the Metropolitan (Met) Police’s Counter Terrorism Command.
PC Benjamin Hannam, aged 22, of north London, was identified 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.
Following a trial at the Old Bailey court in London, Hannam was on April 1 found guilty of membership of a proscribed organization, two counts of fraud by false representation and two counts of possession of documents likely to be of use to a terrorist.
Commander Richard Smith of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command said: “The public expect police officers to carry out their duties with the very highest levels of honesty and integrity. Sadly, PC Hannam showed none of these qualities, firstly by joining and engaging with a far-right proscribed organization, and then when he lied about his past links to this group when applying to become a police officer.
“Thankfully, as part of a wider proactive investigation by officers in the Counter Terrorism Command, we were able to identify PC Hannam as being a member of a proscribed group and when we linked his online profile to his real-world identity, we quickly moved to arrest him.
“PC Hannam was a young man when he was radicalized and seduced online by this toxic ideology.”
PC Hannam, who was suspended from duty following his arrest, will be urgently considered for an expedited misconduct hearing process by the Directorate of Professional Standards now that verdicts from the criminal proceedings against him are known.
Hannam came to the attention of CT 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, showing that he was a serving officer within the Met, fast-time enquiries were carried out and Hannam was arrested at his home in north London on March 5 2020.
PC 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 Hannam’s 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 organization 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 Hannam 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 on December 16 2016.
After his arrest, officers were able to piece together evidence that PC 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, London and that until the summer of 2017, he had continued to attend various activities and events organized by the group.
On 19 July 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 Hannam 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 service.
All known involvement by PC Hannam with National Action had ended by September 30 2017, prior to the start of his police training on March 26 2018.
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 Hannam’s digital devices in the course of their investigation into his membership of National Action.
Hannam is due to be sentenced for all above matters on April 23.