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Met challenge reinstatement of senior officer in child abuse video case

Officers serving with serious convictions undermine public confidence MPS argues

Sacking a senior Metropolitan Police officer convicted of possessing a child abuse video was the “only possible outcome”, the force has argued at the High Court.

Last year, Superintendent Novlett Robyn Williams successfully appealed against the decision to dismiss her and was reinstated as a police officer.

The officer, who was 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.

Her trial at the Old Bailey heard that Williams received the video on WhatsApp from her older sister, Jennifer Hodge.

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

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

The Met is challenging this decision at the High Court, arguing the decision was “perverse and unreasonable”.

The Met is also challenging the reinstatement of Detective Constable Asweina Gutty, who was dismissed following her conviction for assaulting her partner, before being given a final written warning after an appeal to the PAT.

Anne Studd QC, for the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), told the High Court on Tuesday: “The PAT did not look at the situation through the prism of the police officers with serious convictions while serving, but looked at the individual officers.

“We submit that is the wrong approach and that the PAT in each case, for different reasons, fell into error.”

The barrister said the “only possible outcome” in Williams’ case was dismissal.

She continued: “Because an officer can continue to serve does not mean that the public’s confidence is maintained by them doing so.

“It is the reputation of the whole profession that has to take precedence over the circumstances of the individual.”

Ms Studd later said the PAT had put “far too much weight” on Williams’ mitigation.

She continued: “It is not about her, it is about public confidence in the police. The error the PAT has fallen into is making it about Superintendent Williams.”

Gerard Boyle QC, for Williams, said it was an “exceptional and unusual case”.

In written submissions, the barrister argued: “The distinguishing feature in this case was the extent of the public support, despite the conviction and the unchallenged evidence that it would be dismissal, rather than retention, which would damage trust, confidence and the reputation of policing and the MPS in particular.”

Mr Boyle told the court there were almost 200 pages of testimonials in support of Williams, adding: “The long and short of it was continued support of one degree or another.”

The barrister also said the risk to the reputation of the Met or policing generally was referred to “repeatedly” by the PAT, the defendant in the High Court claim.

In written submissions, he continued: “The defendant went even further than required in this regard and considered how young victims of sexual offences might respond to the retention of an officer convicted of such an offence and the harm that may do to confidence in policing.”

Mr Boyle said the video Williams was sent was unsolicited, was not viewed, that her possession of the clip was for less than 48 hours and was not motivated by sexual interest.

He told the court the PAT “plainly did have in mind Superintendent Williams’ culpability”.

The barrister added in written submissions: “The only decisions it could reach were either to dismiss or impose a final written warning. The latter was well within its discretion.”

The hearing before Mrs Justice Heather Williams is due to conclude on Wednesday with a decision expected at a later date.

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