NOT GUILTY: Two Met police officers were cleared of racism charges
TWO METROPOLITIAN police officers charged with making racist comments have been cleared by the same judge who heard evidence in Chelsea footballer John Terry’s racism trial.
Senior District Judge Howard Riddle found PC David Hair and PC Kevin Hughes not guilty of using threatening words or behaviour and racially aggravated harassment at Westminster Magistrates Court in London yesterday [Nov 29].
PC Hughes, 36, of Brentwood, Essex, admitted comparing a black man to a monkey while on patrol in Newham, while PC Hair, 42, of Epping, Essex, was accused of telling a black female colleague she was "going home to cook bananas".
In his ruling, Judge Riddle said Senior District Judge Howard Riddle said: "Freedom of speech is a cherished principle. Freedom of speech includes the freedom to be offensive.
"It is, of course, restrained in a number of ways - employers can require employees to avoid offensive language or lose their jobs. The civil courts can provide redress for harm caused.
"But when the state tells people what they can or cannot say, on pain of criminal sanction, the position is different. Citizens expect strong justification for curtailing freedom of expression. Offensiveness is not enough."
He added that context was central and the comments while "offensive and unacceptable….did not amount to a criminal offence."
The court heard PC Hughes had made the comments on February 22, 2012, because he saw a black man with “elongated arms” and a “gait” like a monkey while on patrol with three colleagues in Green Street.
He said it was “upsetting” that anyone would think he was racist, but admitted using the word “chimpanzee” to describe him.
PC Hair was accused of allegedly telling his female black colleague, PC Julia Dacres, he thought she was going to “rant” about overtime and not do any because she was “going home to cook bananas”.
The accusations were first investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in April following a referral from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).
IPCC Commissioner Mike Franklin said: "[Our investigation] concluded in June when we passed our findings of potential gross misconduct to the Metropolitan Police Service for their consideration."
He added: "Any misconduct hearing will need to determine whether the comments are a breach of the professional standards expected of police officers."
Commander Allan Gibson, of the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards, confirmed misconduct proceedings were now being considered.
A third officer, an acting sergeant in charge of the officers, has been the subject of management action.