Neo-Nazi conviction is a ‘unique’ case

Rookie Ben Hannam’s conviction for belonging to an extreme right-wing group is a “unique” case, according to Scotland Yard’s counter terrorism chief.

Commander Richard Smith moved to reassure the public after it emerged that Hannam joined the Metropolitan Police after lying about his association with banned neo-Nazi organisation National Action.

Hannam had been working as a probationary officer for nearly two years when a list of users of the extreme right-wing forum Iron March was leaked online.

Once his email was linked to the forum, investigators uncovered his association with National Action up to the same month he applied to join the police in July 2017.

Mr Smith, who is head of the Met’s counter terrorism command, said: “We were investigating individuals linked to the Iron March forum, which carries extreme right-wing material.

“We were shocked to find one of the individuals we were seeking to identify turned out to be a serving probationary police officer.

“Ben Hannam obviously lied on his application form to join the Met.

“He would never have been able to join had we known then of his interest in the extreme right wing and his previous membership of National Action.

“Once we identified his involvement with that organisation, we took immediate steps to arrest him and put him before the court.”

He said there was no evidence that Hannam was part of a “deliberate” attempt by the extreme right to infiltrate the force.

A review of his work has not revealed any sign that he tried to draw others into his extreme ideology.

Mr Smith said: “We found no evidence that he used his position as a police officer to further his extremist views.”

During his time in the force, Hannam had no direct access to the Police National Computer, although he could have asked others to do checks on cases he was dealing with.

The Met’s vetting process for new recruits is “proportionate”, Mr Smith said.

“The processes we have to vet potential members of the police service are proportionate, that’s not to say they cannot be absolutely exhaustive.”

He declined to “speculate” on whether a face-to-face interview, rather than a vetting form, would have exposed Hannam’s views.

The officer said a reference from the university Hannam attended in the autumn of 2017 did not raise any issues.

Mr Smith added: “To the best of my knowledge this is a unique case.

“I’m not aware of any other police officer ever facing prosecution for membership of a terrorist group.

“I would reassure the public by pointing out how swiftly we acted, as soon as he was identified, to arrest and prosecute him.

“Ben Hannam had been in the Metropolitan Police less than two years when we got this information and we acted immediately.

“People join the Met Police Service with the intent of keeping people safe from harm.

“The views Ben Hannam expressed online and was interested in online are totally incompatible with being a police officer.”

The court had heard that Hannam, who has autism, was radicalised online and joined National Action’s London branch before it was banned.

On the threat posed to vulnerable people, Mr Smith said: “Radicalisation can take place through many routes. We have a clear concern about extremist material available online and we act robustly when we find it.

“I would urge anyone with concerns about somebody vulnerable to radicalisation who may be accessing this abhorrent material online to report the matter to the police there is specialist help available.”

The College of Policing’s Vetting Authorised Professional Practice (APP), which is national guidance and sets the standards for police forces in England and Wales on vetting, is being updated but not as a result of any specific case.

The national application form previously contained a question specifically about BNP membership, according to a spokesman for the College of Policing.

It was updated in December last year and now asks candidates whether they are or have been a member of a proscribed terrorist organisation or group.

This includes organisations which are “politically, religiously, racially or environmentally disruptive”.

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Categories: Ben Hannam, counter-terrorism, Far Right groups, Metropolitan Police Service, National Action, Neo-Nazi, News, radicalised

TalkRADIO, the Daily Express, and Daily Star remove false story about mosque

TalkRADIO, the Daily Express, and Daily Star have all removed content after the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) had “no reason to believe” allegations made on a radio broadcast that a paramedic had been denied entry to treat a heart attack patient at mosque due to their sexual orientation, following an internal investigation.

The TalkRADIO interview appeared on their Twitter account on March 27, before removal, and read: “Gay paramedic Tom says he was stopped from entering a mosque in Oldham to render assistance to a heart attack victim and lives in constant fear after death threats.” The original tweet had gained over 300 retweets before its removal.

Various far-right websites and Facebook pages had shared the content or reposted it on their websites, adding further layers to their ideological bivouacs, an issue long-highlighted in Tell MAMA’s reports and research. To not give undue attention further, we are not naming these examples.

A day later, the Express newspaper embedded a segment of the TalkRADIO interview under the headline, “Gay paramedic says he was ‘refused entry’ to a mosque” but did not expand the story further.

That same day, however, a more detailed variation of the falsehood appeared on the Daily Star, headlined: “Gay paramedic says he was refused entry to a mosque to treat heart attack patient” as the sub-heading placed the mosque in Manchester, not Oldham, as TalkRADIO has tweeted, though on its official Facebook, TalkRADIO had listed the mosque’s location as Manchester (as confirmed by the URL link) in a now-deleted post.

The Daily Star article quoting from the interview claims that the caller who identified as a pracademic had made a complaint to the North West Ambulance Service, who had, in turn, ‘spoken to the Imam’. Other comments transcribed from the interview perpetuated anti-Muslim and Islamophobic falsehoods about ‘no-go zones‘, which continues to endure.

Given the serious nature of the allegations, the North West Ambulance Service investigated, and in a statement published on March 29, the thorough investigation concluded that “the local management team have not been informed of any such exchange taking place”.

The statement added: “we therefore have no reason to believe that the allegations made by someone maintaining to be an NWAS member of staff are true,” adding that they maintain good relations with faith leaders across the region and do not see the comments as ‘representative of the situation’ in their local communities. The NWAS tweeted the statement two additional times in reply to TalkRADIO and the interview host, Cristo Foufas.

The Official NWAS LGBT Network Twitter account tweeted, “We’ve been made aware of this incident and are confident this was not a member of our staff,” adding how they value the work of faith leaders in the local area, and “look forward to renewing these Positive relationships very soon.”

The Daily Star also deleted tweets that had shared the falsehood on March 28.

Credit: Twitter.

As of writing, neither the Daily Star nor the Daily Express has acknowledged the removal nor apologised.

Cristo Foufas, however, during a segment yesterday on TalkRADIO, stated that they had made multiple attempts to contact the caller but had yet to receive a response, saying: “That it could be that we’ve been duped. It could be that his story was an absolute load of rubbish, and the trust I have, when people call this show, was broken, and that I was and my team were duped by that call, and if we were, I’m really sorry.”

He added that an ‘immediate decision’ had been taken from management to remove all content of the interview from social media following the tweet from the NWAS as they could not verify the details further.

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Categories: Daily Express, Daily Star, Media, media framing, mosque, News, TalkRadio

Former leader of Britain First to stand against First Minister

The former leader of Britain First is standing for election in the same constituency as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.

Jayda Fransen was confirmed as an independent candidate in Glasgow Southside when nominations closed on Wednesday.

Ms Fransen had announced earlier this year that she planned to stand against the “SNP commie, Marxists, naughty people”.

Although a member of the British Freedom Party, documents from Glasgow City Council show Ms Fransen will be running as an independent.

She has previously been convicted of a number of religiously-aggravated crimes, including harassment in both 2016 and 2018 – the latter of which saw her sentenced to 36 weeks in prison.

Ms Fransen has also been pictured outside the constituency office of Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf holding a sign saying “It’s okay to be white” and “All lives matter”.

Speaking outside the city chambers in Glasgow, Ms Fransen, along with Joe Finnie – described as the Glasgow organiser of the British Freedom Party who will be standing in Glasgow Pollok against Mr Yousaf – said: “We can’t wait for this election, we’re really excited and now we can really kick-start the campaign.

“There’s a lot coming guys and as Joe said: Bring it on.”

Ms Fransen was the deputy leader and leader of Britain First before her departure from the party in 2019.

She stood in the Rochester and Strood Westminster by-election in 2014, winning 56 votes.

Meanwhile Jim Dowson, a founding member of Britain First, is standing in the Airdrie and Shotts constituency.

In a video on the British Freedom Party channel of online video platform, Mr Dowson said: “I’m really looking forward to the people of Airdrie at last having the chance to vote for one of their own, because I don’t mince my words and I’m not there to represent everybody, which all the politicians say, I’m there to represent our people, British people, everybody else can go and take a run and jump.”

Mr Dowson will be standing against former SNP MP Neil Gray, who has vacated his Westminster seat to run for Holyrood.

In a request for funding during the video, Mr Dowson described himself, Ms Fransen and Mr Finnie as “machine guns” and donations as “bullets”.

He added: “Your pound notes equate into weapons of war against our enemy.

“Against the people who are trying to destroy our country and in turn our people themselves.

“We have to get behind this and we have to get wired into this.”

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Categories: Britain First, British Freedom Party, Glasgow, Glasgow Southside, Jayda Fransen, News, Scottish First Minister