Former UK police officers sentenced for sending racist messages about Meghan, royals

By Sam Tobin

LONDON (Reuters) – Six former London police officers on Thursday were given suspended prison sentences for sharing offensive and racist messages on WhatsApp, including references to Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, and other members of the royal family.

In a statement after the sentencing hearing Commander James Harman, who leads the Metropolitan Police’s Anti-Corruption and Abuse Command, said “the racist and discriminatory content of these messages is absolutely appalling”.

“Given the defendants once served as police officers, we recognise that this case may further damage confidence in policing,” Harman said.

The six officers, who have all retired, were charged after an investigation by the BBC’s Newsnight programme which discovered the men sent the messages between August 2018 and September 2022, a period when they had all left the police.

Three of the messages featured racist comments about Meghan, the wife of King Charles’ younger son, Prince Harry. Meghan’s mother is Black and her father is white.

One of these messages also included a picture of the late Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip, while others referenced Charles’ eldest son and heir Prince William and his wife Kate, along with Rishi Sunak, Britain’s first prime minister of colour.

Five of the former officers, aged in their 60s, pleaded guilty to sending offensive messages in September and were all sentenced on Thursday to between six and 14 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.

The five men had all worked in various departments at the police but had all served in the Diplomatic Protection Group, which in the last two years has seen one former member convicted of murder and rape, and another jailed for carrying out 24 rapes and other sex offences over two decades.

Michael Chadwell, 62, pleaded not guilty to one count of sending an offensive message, but he was convicted after a trial at City of London Magistrates’ Court last month.

Chadwell was sentenced to 10 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.

London’s Metropolitan Police, Britain’s biggest force, has been plagued by multiple scandals in recent years and an independent review in March concluded it was institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic.

Its chief Mark Rowley, who took up the post last year, has promised to rid it of unsuitable individuals among its more than 43,000 officers and staff.

(Reporting by Sam Tobin; Additional reporting by Farouq Suleiman; Editing by Daniel Wallis)