A decorated police officer has been ordered to carry out 200 hours of community service after being convicted of possessing a child sex abuse video.
Novlett Robyn Williams denied seeing the footage after it was sent over WhatsApp by her sister, who claimed to be raising awareness.
A judge described the case as “completely tragic” following a distinguished career where the superintendent had taken on leading roles in the Metropolitan Police and been decorated by the Queen.
“You have had a stellar career in the police force over 30 years,” Judge Richard Marks QC said.
“That is amply demonstrated by the awards you received, the rank you achieved, and truly outstanding character references. Against this background, it is completely tragic you found yourself in the position you now do.”
Judge Marks said the consequences of Williams’ conviction would be “immense” for her career, amid a separate investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
The Police Superintendents’ Association (PSA) said the officer’s legal team was considering an appeal.
“Supt Williams has shown complete dignity and professionalism throughout the investigation,” said Victor Marshall OBE, the association’s professional standards coordinator.
“The PSA has supported Supt Williams throughout this process and will continue to do so.”
Williams had told the court she was “wedded to” her work, and was supported at hearings by Grenfell Tower survivors she helped following the disaster.
She had earnt a Queen’s Police Medal for distinguished service in 2003 and a Royal Warrant the year before.
The 54-year-old police officer was sentenced at the Old Bailey in London on Tuesday alongside sister Jennifer Hodge and her partner, Dido Massivi.
Hodge, a 56-year-old social worker, was given 100 hours of community service for distributing an indecent image of a child.
Massivi, 61, was handed an 18-month suspended prison sentence and 200 hours unpaid work for distributing the video, and possessing an extreme pornographic image.
The court heard he was sacked as a bus driver, his job for 20 years, after being arrested.
All three will be placed on the sex offenders’ register – Hodge and Williams for five years, and Massivi for 10.
The court heard none of the defendants had a sexual interest in the footage, which showed a young girl performing a sex act on a man.
Prosecutor Richard Wright QC said he was not accusing the defendants of having any “sinister purpose” in having or sharing the video.
“This is instead a case in which we allege that each of them made serious errors of judgement about how to handle this video and, in dealing with it as they did, each of them has committed serious criminal offences,” he added.
The Old Bailey heard Williams was among 17 people sent the video by her sister, who had received it from her partner, Massivi.
Williams, of south London, denied seeing the video after it was sent to her via WhatsApp in February 2018.
But prosecutors said there was no way Williams could have missed the 54-second clip, where a child’s body could be seen in a tile image.
They cited a response from the officer to her older sister to “please call” as evidence she wanted to discuss the footage.
Williams was accused of failing to inform police of the illegal video in order to protect her sister.
Giving evidence from the witness box, Williams said she did not read all her messages and would have reported the video if she knew what it was.
“It depends where I am, what else I am doing,” she added. “Some things might grab my attention, other things may not.
“There are messages there I just don’t respond to, I can’t tell you why.”
Williams said she was at a gym class on the morning she received the video, with a follow-up message from Hodge pleading for it to be shared.
“Sorry had to send this it’s so sad that this person would put this out please post this and let’s hope he gets life,” Hodge wrote.
The court heard Williams then attempted to contact her sister and they spoke, but the officer did not report the video.
Police were alerted by a different recipient and began an investigation.
A lawyer representing Williams told the Old Bailey her client did not report the video because she had not played it and did not know what it contained.
“All 16 other people played it because they didn’t appreciate what had been sent to them,” said Anesta Weekes QC.
“My client doesn’t play it, she doesn’t click on it. An expert found she didn’t download the video.”
Andrea Brown, representing Hodge, said her client had a “genuinely noble” intention when she circulated the footage to alert people to abuse.
Hodge said she had no idea that distributing the video was illegal, and said she wanted to find out if the content had been “taken down from the platform” and the man reported.
Lefi Tsiattalou, for Massivi, told the court he had also been trying to “raise the alarm” about the video by sending it to Hodge, to pass on to Williams.
She said: “Mr Massivi told police, ‘I thought Jennifer was going to report it through her sister’ – his actions are of a man that wants to ensure that police are aware of these images.”
Ms Tsiattalou described Massivi as a “simple man” who was not very computer literate.
In an interview with the Sutton Guardian Williams said she had joined the Metropolitan Police in 2008 and had been part of the team that managed the response to the Grenfell Tower fire.
She was appointed as the borough commander for Sutton in September 2017 but was moved from the post and placed on restricted duties after the indecent image investigation was launched.
Williams had denied all charges but was convicted by a majority of 10 to one of possessing the video, after a juror was discharged.
The jury cleared her of a charge of corrupt or improper exercise of police powers and privilege.
Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Matthew Horne said Williams remains on restricted duties.
He added: “The prosecution called this a ‘sad case’ and referred to the ‘serious errors of judgement’ made by those involved. The court heard that Williams has led a distinguished career in policing and previously been commended for her professionalism.
“The Independent Office for Police Conduct is carrying out an independent misconduct investigation into the actions of Supt Williams and we await the outcome.”
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), which removes indecent images online, called on people to be aware of the proper course of action if they “stumble across” them.
Chief executive Susie Hargreaves OBE said: “No matter who you are, possessing indecent images of children is a criminal offence.
“If you ever see something like this on the internet, please report it to the police and the IWF to ensure that the content is traced and removed.
“This is safe and anonymous, and is the right way to do the right thing.”
Additional reporting by PA
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