Benjamin Hannam: Met Police officer convicted of membership of neo-Nazi terrorist group

Officer guilty of three terror offences and also admitted possessing indecent image of a child

Lizzie Dearden
Security Correspondent
Thursday 01 April 2021 14:44 BST
Police release footage after neo-Nazi convicted of belonging to banned terror group

A police officer has been convicted of being a member of a neo-Nazi terrorist group, three years after he was allowed to join the Metropolitan Police.

Benjamin Hannam became involved with National Action in 2016 and continued activities with a successor group after it was banned in December that year.

The 22-year-old is believed to be the first British police officer ever to be convicted of a terror offence.

He was found guilty of membership of a terrorist organisation following a trial that was subject to blanket reporting restrictions, and also admitted possessing a prohibited image of a child.

Hannam, who denied that he had ever been a member of National Action, was found guilty of two counts of fraud for lying on police application and vetting forms.

Read more:

The defendant, from Edmonton in London, was also convicted of two counts of possessing information useful to a terrorist over the 2011 Norway attacker’s manifesto and a “knife combat” document.

Jurors deliberated for 32 hours before reaching their verdicts on Thursday, some of which were agreed by a majority. Judge Anthony Leonard QC said he would sentence Hannam at a later date.

Benjamin Hannam, pictured here boxing outdoors, is now the first police officer to be convicted of belonging to a banned neo-Nazi terror group.

Prosecutor Dan Pawson-Pounds told the court Hannam demonstrated an “adherence to fascist ideology and a potentially veiled but nonetheless evident neo-Nazi mindset” in the period covered by the charges.

“Hannam continued to meet with like-minded individuals at what were clearly National Action events, well after the group had been proscribed,” he added.

“He had been a member, and active recruiter before proscription, and continued to be so afterwards, whilst taking precautions to move and conceal incriminating evidence.”

Hannam’s trial started on 8 March at the Old Bailey, but nothing could be published until the jury reached its verdict because of a reporting restriction.

It was imposed because Hannam was due to face a second trial for possessing indecent images of children, and a judge did not want that jury to be swayed by the terror trial.

'Miss Hitler’ and fellow neo-Nazis convicted of National Action membership

But on 23 March, Hannam pleaded guilty to one count of possessing a prohibited image of a child. Prosecutors did not proceed with a second count of the same offence, and left a third to lie on file.

Hannam applied to join the Metropolitan Police in July 2017 and started as a trainee on 26 March 2018.

He passed vetting checks, completed training and was a probationary constable in an emergency response team by the time of his arrest on 5 March 2020.

Hannam was only exposed as a former member of National Action because anti-fascists leaked data from the fascist Iron March forum.

Commander Richard Smith, head of the Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Command, said the investigation was triggered by the release of users’ data in November 2019.

A videograb of Ben Hannam, shown to the jury during his trial for belonging to a banned neo-Nazi group.

“We identified a forum user called Anglisc,” he told a press conference. “We did some work on that particular account back to 2016 and linked it to Hannam’s address.

“At that point our investigation revealed that he was, by then, a probationary police officer.”

Hannam’s identity had not been discovered by police before the leak, despite his connections with several senior National Action members who have previously been prosecuted for terror offences.

Hannam was involved with National Action from March 2016 and it was banned as a terrorist organisation by the government in December that year.

He then took part in activities by its successor group NS131, which was an alias used to evade the prohibition until it was also banned.

His trial heard he travelled to National Action meetings with senior members including the group’s co-founder, its 2016 conference, boxing camps and graffiti events.

Hannam appeared in a promotional video for NS131 and in a photograph alongside other members, in front of a National Action flag.

Investigators believe Hannam ceased active involvement with the group by October 2017 – almost three months after he applied to become a police officer.

Scotland Yard said no officers had raised concerns about his ideology or behaviour over Hannam’s two years of service, and were “shocked” by the investigation.

In a witness statement, one of Hannam’s superiors said he had not drawn attention “for anything other than being immature and a slow learner”.

Another superior described the defendant as “quiet” and socially awkward, saying he “was considered quite an immature individual by his peers”.

Metropolitan Police photo of Benjamin Hannam in his bedroom

The Metropolitan Police said “thorough checks” were carried out on the cases and incidents Hannam had dealt with, as well as his use of the Police National Computer database, and that nothing of concern was found.

Officials said there had been no complaints about his conduct or behaviour from colleagues or members of the public, and that his only known misconduct was an incident where he used his brother’s travel card on public transport.

Mr Smith said that if Hannam had answered a key question on his application and vetting forms truthfully, there was “no way he would have been accepted as a police officer”.

The forms asked recruits if they are, or have ever been, members of the British National Party (BNP) or a similar organisation “whose aims, objectives or pronouncements may contradict the duty to promote race equality”.

Hannam denied being a member of National Action at any point during his trial, and said that even if he had been he was right to answer “no” on the forms because it was not similar to the BNP.

A selfie of rookie police officer Benjamin Hannam was shown to the jury during his trial at the Old Bailey

The court heard that Hannam is “on the autism spectrum” and was socially isolated, had few friends, and lived at home with his mother and siblings.

Giving evidence at his trial, he said he became interested in fascism at the age of 16 because he liked its “look and aesthetic”.

Hannam said he became aware of National Action on the 4chan website and went to his first meeting because he was “interested in discussing politics and ideologies”.

“At the time I was struggling to meet friends, my interests were always vastly different from everyone else’s,” he added.

“The long term [reason] was the social isolation and the short term thing was 4chan … I didn’t just want to sit at home playing video games all day, I felt so lonely.”

Hannam said he never regarded himself as a member of National Action, refused to go to its demonstrations and had arguments with associates.

While denying hating the groups targeted by the group, he said his grandfather was gay, another relative was Jewish, he had friends of different races, and that his ex-girlfriend was a Mauritian Muslim.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in