MEMBERS of a Hampshire police unit branded as “toxic” have been found guilty of gross misconduct after ‘offensive and disrespectful’ conversations were covertly recorders.

The Northern Serious Organised Crime Unit's (SOCU) office was bugged over a 24-day period in 2018 when homophobic, racist and sexist remarks were recorded.

Six members have now been found guilty of gross misconduct following a lengthy misconduct hearing.

Retired Detective Inspector Tim Ireson, Detective Sergeant Oliver Lage, Detective Sergeant Gregory Willcox, former PC Craig Bannerman, trainee Detective Constable Andrew Ferguson and PC James Oldfield are now facing sanctions.

Jason Beer QC, acting on behalf of Hampshire Constabulary, said: “This was a specialist police unit that operated in relative isolation to the rest of the force.”

Mr Beer said that that “isolation and lack of leadership and supervision from Mr Ireson and DS Willcox” led to a “toxic and abhorrent culture”.

He added: “It was a plain nasty unit. The officers joked about migrants having a long swim and drown in the sea.

“It was a unit that was disrespectful.”

Andover Advertiser:

A statement from Hampshire Constabulary said: “SOCU North office at the Northern Police Investigation Centre. During the three-week period, comments of a discriminatory nature were recorded.

“The panel has spent a number of weeks listening to the evidence, and the submissions from the officers to explain their behaviours, before reaching their findings, which have been delivered cumulatively. We will receive a full breakdown of the decisions in due course.

“The conduct related to discriminatory comments captured during a covert recording of the SOCU North office in 2018. Such comments were neither challenged nor reported.

“The hearing will now break for the Christmas period and resume in the first week of January when the Panel will determine the appropriate sanctions for each officer.

“We understand there is significant interest in this case and our response to this outcome, however as this remains a live legal process, we will respond fully at the conclusion of the proceedings.”

The officers could be dismissed when the panel reconvenes on January 4.