Police officers quit WhatsApp groups as top cop returns to the Met

Police officers quit WhatsApp groups as top cop returns to the Met

Police officers quit WhatsApp groups fearing they will be held responsible for videos sent by friends as top cop returns to the Met after being wrongly sacked for possessing child porn

  • Police officer Novlett Robyn Williams was unfairly dismissed, a tribunal has ruled
  • She was sacked in 2019 after being convicted of possessing child pornography
  • Trial heard she didn’t report a child abuse video her sister sent her to investigate 
  • She is to go back in uniform as trial heard she made an ‘error’ not reporting video

Police officers are quitting Whatsapp groups in the wake of a messy legal battle concerning one of the Met’s top law enforcers. 

Group chats on the popular social media platform have been abandoned by some following the case of a senior policewoman once tipped to be Scotland Yard’s first black commissioner.

Acting Chief Superintendent Novlett Robyn Williams was sacked and put on the sex offenders register in 2019 after being convicted of possessing child pornography. 

She failed to report a child abuse video that her sister sent her to investigate, with a 2019 jury not believing her insistence she had not even viewed it.

Now the senior Scotland Yard officer, who was on an £80,000 salary, is to go back into uniform and is expected to receive back pay for missed earnings after a police appeals tribunal ruled her dismissal was ‘unfair’ and ‘unreasonable’.

Former Met Chief superintendent Dal Babu said this morning the case had caused people to consider Whatsapp again.

He said: ‘When this happened I actually left a lot of Whatsapp groups, I’m a football supporter I’m in a few Whatsapp groups, I left them because I was just very conscious people were sending videos I have no control over.

‘The legislation as it stands at the moment is even if you haven’t solicited it, you are under a legal duty if you receive certain types of videos like this to report it to the police.’

Acting Chief Superintendent Novlett Robyn Williams (pictured in 2016) was unfairly dismissed for possessing child abuse images, a tribunal has ruled

Former Met Chief superintendent Dal Babu said this morning the case had caused people to consider Whatsapp again.

He added to Radio 4 of Ms Williams’ case: ‘I’m pleased, I think this was a bizarre decision that she was sacked when you look at the full circumstances but I can also understand why the police took that position, so it was an incredibly difficult situation.

‘That image was subsequently sent to 17 different people, Robyn was one of them, Robyn was the only one of them that was convicted.

‘Some of the individuals had reported it to police, others hadn’t, and the feeling was – and Robyn’s view and the jury didn’t believe her – she didn’t discuss it with her sister even though they’d spent a day at a spa the following day. She was convicted on that and following that it goes to police process in terms of whether she’s sacked or not. You do have situations where individuals are convicted of offences but they remain in the police, the police decided she should be sacked. 

‘I think the circumstances on this occasion are very much around that fact that, nobody has suggested that she has any interest in child pornography, it was sent to her. She has said that she did not open it and I think there was evidence to suggest that she didn’t open it and then she didn’t discuss it with her sister.

The Acting Chief Superintendent (pictured) was sacked and put on the sex offenders register in 2019 after being convicted of possessing child pornography

Her trial at the Old Bailey heard the officer made a ‘serious error of judgment’ when she failed to report a child abuse video that her sister Jennifer Hodge (pictured) sent her to investigate

‘Other senior members of the police service were saying she should remain in the organisation, the organisation could have given her a final written warning.

‘Helen Ball, who is the assistant chair to this decided she should be sacked. I think there will be questions asked about proportionality. The police can still judicially review this decision, but I think this is the end of the road for this particular decision.’ 

Prosecutors said there was no way the officer could have missed the 54-second clip, pointing out that Miss Williams had messaged her sister saying ‘please call’ after it was sent.

The case came to court when one of the other recipients of the clip reported it to the police.

Miss Williams was convicted of possessing an indecent image of a child, but spared jail after a judge said it was a ‘complete tragedy’ that she was in the dock as it was obvious she did not have the image for sexual gratification.

But Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball (pictured) warned that the ‘public would not have faith’ that Miss Williams ‘would protect them’ due to her conviction

Until the prosecution, the officer had enjoyed a stellar career in uniform, winning the Queen’s Police Medal twice and dozens of other awards, including one for tackling gang violence.

She was honoured by the Queen for her senior role during the 2011 London riots and for helping Grenfell victims in 2017.

Yesterday a police appeals tribunal upheld her appeal against her dismissal. 

Miss Williams said: ‘I am extremely pleased with today’s outcome. For over a year, before and during the pandemic, I have continued to support local people by working within community initiatives.

‘I am delighted to be able to return to the work I love, serving our communities within London.’

Police Superintendents’ Association professional standards co-ordinator Victor Marshall said: ‘We have continued to support Robyn since the original allegations against her were made.

‘We are pleased that today’s panel agreed that her dismissal was unreasonable.’

But only last year Assistant Commissioner Ball, who chaired her original misconduct hearing, said the senior officer’s ‘disgraceful act’ constituted gross misconduct and she should be dismissed without notice.

She said: ‘Dismissal after a misconduct hearing is not designed to punish police officers, it’s about upholding the reputation of the police force as a whole. 

‘Williams was in a position of responsibility both on and off duty and her failure to act was very grave. This could have led to further harm to that child in the video.

‘It is unacceptable for police officers enforcing the law to break the law themselves.’

The Met Police said: ‘The tribunal determined Miss Williams’ dismissal should be replaced with a final written warning. We await the full judgment. 

‘We will then consider the ruling and engage with Miss Williams’ representatives accordingly.’

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