LONDON – A British policeman who lied about his membership in a banned neo-Nazi group was sentenced to four months and four months in prison on Friday.
Benjamin Hannam – the first British police officer to be convicted of a terrorism offense, according to Reuters – has been convicted by the Old Bailey court in London for having previously been a member of the far-right National Action. The group was banned under UK terrorism laws in 2016.
Hannam, 22, was also convicted of two counts of fraud and two counts of possession of a document that could be used by a terrorist, during a trial in April. He separately pleaded guilty to possession of an indecent image of a child.
Hannan, who is from north London, was a probationary officer with the Metropolitan Police, the UK’s largest police force, covering Greater London.
The court heard during the trial that the Met’s counterterrorism agents linked him to an active online profile on a far-right forum, Iron March, frequented by members of National Action.
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After seizing his computer and a USB stick, police discovered that he had visited web pages related to National Action as well as pages relating to his inclusion on the UK 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 at a London pub in 2016 and continued to attend events until the summer of 2017.
In April 2016, before the national action ban, another user showed interest in the group and, according to prosecutors, Hannam replied: “Always good for more people to join, that means we can organize more things, which is just more fun for everyone! “
Verification forms ask future 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 police are making it clear that previous involvement would have been enough to disqualify him.
Speaking after the trial in April, Jenny Hopkins of the Crown Prosecution Service said: “His lies caught up with him and he was exposed as an individual with deeply racist beliefs who also possessed extremist publications useful to a terrorist.
At an internal police hearing last week, he was found guilty of serious misconduct and his contract terminated.
Right-wing terrorism is a growing concern for British law enforcement agencies. The Home Office said potential terrorism cases involving suspected far-right extremists referred to its specialized Terrorism Prevention Service increased by 22% in the year through March 2020.