Benjamin Hannam: Metropolitan Police officer convicted of membership of banned right-wing group National Action

A British police officer has been convicted of belonging to a banned neo-Nazi terror group, following a trial at the Old Bailey

Rookie PC Benjamin Hannam is the first British police officer to receive such a conviction, and was found guilty of membership of outlawed right-wing extremist group, National Action (NA).

He was also convicted of lying on his application and vetting forms to join the Metropolitan Police, and having terror documents detailing knife combat and making explosive devices.

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Hannam – of North London – applied to join Scotland Yard on 19 July 2017, fraudulently denying he had ever been a member of the British National Party “or similar organisation”.

Ben Hannam said he had been attracted to fascism aged 16 because of its 'bold artwork' (Photos: PA/Met Police)

When officers searched his bedroom last year, they found neo-Nazi posters, notes detailing his membership of NA, as well as NA badges and business cards.

He also had stored on a USB stick two documents said to be useful to a terrorist; mass murderer Anders Breivik’s manifesto containing guidance on making weapons, and a second document detailing how to carry out a fatal knife attack.

A jury had deliberated for more than 32 hours to find the 22-year old guilty on Thursday 1 April.

Judge Anthony Leonard QC lifted a ban on reporting the case after Hannam admitted possessing an indecent image of a child, which was to have been the subject of a separate trial.

Benjamin Hannam (second right) with National Action associates; the group was proscribed in December 2016 after it glorified the murder of MP Jo Cox (Photo: PA/Met Police)

‘Desperate to impress’

Hannam had been working as a probationary officer for the Metropolitan Police for nearly two years before he was found on a leaked database of users of extreme right-wing forum Iron March.

He had signed up to the forum when he joined the London branch of neo-Nazi group NA in March 2016.

The officer, who has autism, said he was “desperate to impress” an older NA organiser who gave him free stickers and badges.

Hannam’s association with NA ended before he began working for the Met and counter-terrorism officers acted “swiftly” once he had been identified as a suspect.

Commander Richard Smith, head of the Met’s counter-terrorism command, said it was a “unique” case.

He said Hannam "would never have been able to join had we known then of his interest in the extreme right wing and his previous membership of National Action.

“Once we identified his involvement with that organisation we took immediate steps to arrest him and put him before the court.”

What is National Action?

The ideology of NA was described in court as based on “Aryan purity” and hatred of non-white groups, particularly Jews. Members venerate Adolf Hitler as a “divine figure” and celebrate violence, including war and genocide, the court heard.

NA was proscribed on December 16 2016 after it glorified the murder of MP Jo Cox.

In his defence, Hannam denied he had ever been a member of NA before or after it was banned, told jurors he had been attracted to fascism aged 16 because of its “bold artwork”, and denied reading all of Breivik’s manifesto, saying he found it “boring”.

Hannam, is currently suspended from duty and awaiting sentencing; Judge Anthony Leonard QC previously declined to give Hannam a formal indication of the likely sentence, but said conviction would lead to a jail sentence.

Trust in the police and justice system ‘far from adequate’

The news comes during a PR furore surrounding the police, after the Metropolitan Police was backed over its handling of the Sarah Everard vigil in March, by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

Inspectors were called in to examine the force’s actions after women who attended the event on Clapham Common were bundled to the ground and arrested; the ugly scenes attracted an outpouring of criticism on social media, with calls for Met chief Dame Cressida Dick to resign.

But the inspectors found that officers at the event did their best to peacefully disperse the crowd, remained calm and professional when subjected to abuse, and did not act inappropriately or in a heavy-handed manner.

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Jamie Klingler, from Reclaim These Streets, said she was “very disappointed but not surprised” at the watchdog’s findings.

She told the PA news agency: “Our right to protest is a human right that they tried to take away from us, which then created all of the firestorm around it.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said that he accepted the report, but added: “It is clear that trust and confidence of women and girls in the police and criminal justice system is far from adequate.”

‘A case to answer for gross misconduct’

A Metropolitan Police officer accused of raping two female colleagues also faces a misconduct hearing three years after the alleged offences.

The unnamed officer, who was reportedly in abusive relationships with both women, was not charged or suspended and continued working for Britain’s largest police force in a reduced capacity, according to an investigation by the BBC with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

The off-duty alleged offences were reported to Essex Police in 2017, and it said it carried out a lengthy inquiry but acknowledged there were “areas for improvement in the management of these investigations”.

The force added it was told there was “no realistic prospect of charge” after passing its file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in 2019.

Scotland Yard said its professional standards body monitored the criminal investigation and then “determined in late February 2021 that the officer had a case to answer for gross misconduct”.

A Metropolitan Police statement said a date for the misconduct hearing has not yet been set but it “will be expedited as quickly as possible”.

Additional reporting by Press Association