Robyn Williams: Met must keep top officer sacked over abuse video

·3-min read
Novlett Robyn Williams (Nick Ansell/PA) (PA Archive)
Novlett Robyn Williams (Nick Ansell/PA) (PA Archive)

The Metropolitan Police has been told to keep in post a senior officer convicted of possessing a child abuse video.

Superintendent Novlett Robyn Williams, 59, commended for her work after the Grenfell Tower disaster, was sentenced to 200 hours of community service for possession of an indecent image in November 2019.

She was dismissed from the Met after a special disciplinary hearing in March 2020 found her conviction amounted to gross misconduct.

However, last year, the highly decorated officer successfully appealed against the decision to dismiss her following her conviction and was reinstated as a police officer.

In June 2021, the Police Appeals Tribunal (PAT) found that she should not have been sacked and instead receive a final written warning.

Earlier this month, the Met challenged this decision at the High Court in London, arguing it was “perverse and unreasonable” and that Williams’ dismissal was the “only possible outcome”.

In a judgment on Tuesday, Mrs Justice Heather Williams rejected the Met’s bid to overturn the PAT’s decision.

 (PA)
(PA)

She said: “The PAT was entitled to regard this as an exceptional case in which dismissal for the officer’s gross misconduct was not a necessary and proportionate sanction.”

The judge continued: “The PAT reached the conclusion that it did because of the unique circumstances of the conviction, the officer’s stellar career, the substantial impact she had had on enhancing the reputation of the MPS as a whole and its assessment that her dismissal would reduce confidence in the police in some of the communities in which the MPS had struggled to gain trust.

“This was a permissible conclusion for it to reach.”

During Williams’ trial at the Old Bailey, jurors heard how she received a child abuse video via WhatsApp from her older sister, Jennifer Hodge, so that the officer could investigate the footage.

But she failed to report the clip, and while the court accepted she had not viewed the video, the jury was not convinced she was unaware of it being on her phone.

Anne Studd QC, for Scotland Yard, previously argued that the PAT had put “far too much weight” on Williams’ mitigation and had not properly assessed the seriousness of the conviction.

However, Mrs Justice Heather Williams said: “I do not consider that there is anything in the suggestion that the PAT wrongly took into account personal mitigation when assessing seriousness.”

Scotland Yard also challenged the reinstatement of Detective Constable Asweina Gutty, who was dismissed following her conviction for assaulting her then-partner, before being given a final written warning after an appeal to the PAT.

However, Mrs Justice Heather Williams also rejected this challenge, finding the PAT was “entitled to conclude” that a final written warning was suitable in the “unusual circumstances of this case”.

Andy George, president of the National Black Police Association, said of the Williams case: “So glad to hear this verdict and hopefully the Met will allow Robyn to get on with her career in peace.

“It should never have taken this long and forces need to stop hounding black officers and staff in a way they wouldn’t for the majority of our colleagues.”

Following the rulings, a Met spokesman said: “We are aware of the outcome of judicial review proceedings brought by the Metropolitan Police Service in relation to two Police Appeal Tribunal cases.

“The PAT overturned decisions to dismiss officers from the Met which had been made in special case hearings following criminal convictions.

“The MPS instigated judicial review proceedings in relation to both cases. We will now take time to carefully consider the judgments and any next steps.”

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