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Former officer jailed over messages mocking George Floyd

The ex-PC was a serving officer with West Mercia in 2020 at the time of the offences.

Ex-PC James Watts, 32, has today been jailed for 20 weeks after he posted racist memes in a WhatsApp group chat.

The “grossly offensive” material was shared to a group chat which included former colleagues at a Warwickshire prison, where Watts had been a prison officer.

10 memes in total were posted between May and June 2020, while Watts was a probationary constable. One of the memes showed a white dog wearing Ku Klux Klan clothing, while another displayed a kneeling mat with George Floyd’s face printed on it.

Other images, which deputy chief magistrate Tan Ikram said “undermined the confidence the public has in the police”, made jokes about Mr Floyd’s death featuring pictures of George of the Jungle and the children’s game Guess Who.

During police interviews, the former West Mercia officer had accepted the messages were racist in nature. He also resigned from the force during the course of the investigation.

He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to ten counts of sending a grossly offensive or menacing message by a public communication network.

Mr Ikram told him: “These are the most serious offences.

“You have been employed in positions of considerable responsibility.

“At every stage since you were found out, you have cooperated with the authorities and accepted your wrong.

“But the fact remains that over a period of about a month, you continued to post messages which were grossly offensive.

“I do not agree with your advocate that this was stupidity or foolishness. This goes far beyond that.

“Your behaviour brings the criminal justice system as a whole into disrepute.

“The hostility that you demonstrated on the basis of race makes this offending so serious that I cannot deal with it by a community penalty or a fine.

“A message must go out and that message can only go out through an immediate sentence of imprisonment.”

When the messages came to light in 2020, the force referred the case to the IOPC. An accelerated misconduct hearing found that he would have been dismissed had he not previously resigned.

Deputy Chief Constable Julian Moss said: "I welcome the sentencing today and the custodial sentence, which shows the gravity of the offence.

“This case shows we are committed to rooting out any racist behaviour within the force, whether it takes place on or off duty. There is absolutely no place for these attitudes or this behaviour within West Mercia Police.”

Another West Mercia PC Joann Jinks, 41, from Redditch, Worcestershire, is due to stand trial at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on August 23 charged with three counts of the same offence.

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