A counter-terrorism chief has defended the vetting process for Metropolitan Police officers after a former officer was jailed for belonging to a neo-Nazi group.
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu spoke of being “shocked and betrayed” after Ben Hannam, 22, was jailed for more than four years for being a member of banned extremist group National Action (NA).
However, Mr Basu, National Police Chiefs Council lead for counter terrorism policing, denied the force’s vetting procedure was the problem, saying that Hannam would not have been caught if background checks had been more rigorous.
He told Times Radio: “When I found out about this case, when we originally identified him, I was as shocked and betrayed as the tens of thousands of decent police officers all over the country will have felt when they saw the sentence today.
“This is not a man who represents us, and it was a significant sentence and a pretty stark warning for anybody who’s interested in right-wing extremism and this kind of filth, let alone a serving police officer.”
He went on to say: “No vetting process is 100%, the judge recognised the vetting process wasn’t to blame here, in this particular case, it can’t be 100%.”
Mr Basu said it would be “foolish” for him to say vetting procedures are not being reviewed nationally because of the case.
He added: “So taking up people’s references, and we did do that in this case, doing people’s social media in a kind of open source way, we do these things. But this would not have caught this man.
“So there has to be a balance, there’s both resource and people’s privacy to consider and if people thought that the might of the UK intelligence community and counter-terrorism policing were going to look at every single aspect of your life because you applied, I think that would have a rather chilling effect on joining the police.
“So we have to be proportionate about it. Suffice to say that rigorous checks that we have would not have caught him. But of course, he was caught and that is the important thing.”