Court refuses former Met Police officer’s appeal against indecent image conviction

Former superintendent Robyn Williams had been sent video on WhatsApp and did not watch it

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 18 February 2021 13:51
Novlett Robyn Williams has been found guilty of possessing an indecent photo of a child but cleared of corruption
Novlett Robyn Williams has been found guilty of possessing an indecent photo of a child but cleared of corruption

A disgraced former police officer has had an appeal against an indecent image conviction refused.

Novlett Robyn Williams, 56, had been a superintendent in the Metropolitan Police and was decorated for her work before the case.

Williams was sacked after being sentenced to 200 hours of community service for possession of an indecent image in November 2019.

Williams denied seeing the footage after it was sent over WhatsApp by her sister, Jennifer Hodge, who claimed to be raising awareness.

Ms Hodge, 57, had originally been sent the clip by her long-term boyfriend, 63-year-old Dido Massivi.

All three defendants challenged their convictions at the Court of Appeal on Thursday, but they were refused by Dame Victoria Sharp, sitting with Mr Justice Sweeney and Mrs Justice Ellenbogen.

Dame Victoria said: “The applications made on behalf of all three appellants in this case are refused for reasons which will be handed down later.”

Anesta Weekes QC, representing Williams, had told the court there was “not even a suggestion” that her client had watched the 54-second video and that she was “the only one” of the recipients who had not watched it.

She said the case against Williams at trial was that she “must have seen” a clear thumbnail image from the video, which was indecent.

But Ms Weekes said expert evidence had not demonstrated how clear the image thumbnail would have been to Williams, because they did “not even have the very phone” used.

Richard Wright QC, representing the Crown Prosecution Service, said the case did not rely on what Williams had seen but “what was present on her phone to be seen”.

Judge describes case as ‘completely tragic’ after ‘stellar career’

“That was the central issue in the case and one which required expert evidence to reconstruct the thumbnail, its clarity, its size and how it would have appeared in the absence of the original thumbnail,” he added.

Williams’ trial was told that none of the defendants had a sexual interest in the footage, which showed a young girl performing a sex act on a man.

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.

No further action was taken against the other 16 people who received the footage, and police said they had either deleted or reported it.

Hodge, a social worker, was given 100 hours of community service for distributing an indecent image of a child.

Massivi, was handed an 18-month suspended prison sentence and 200 hours unpaid work for distributing the video, and possessing an extreme pornographic image.

All three were placed on the sex offenders’ register – Hodge and Williams for five years, and Massivi for 10.

The Court of Appeal said the full reasons for their judgment would be handed down at a later date.

Victor Marshall of the Police Superintendents’ Association, which has been assisting Williams because of her former rank, said it was disappointed with the result.

He said she was fighting against her dismissal from the Metropolitan Police in separate proceedings in the Police Appeals Tribunal.

“There are and continue to be very strong concerns about this case and why it was brought in the first place,” he added.

Janet Hills, chair of the Metropolitan Black Police Association, said: ”We feel that something has gone wrong along the way.

“Robyn will continue to have the support of the Black Police Association for all other matters that are outstanding in this case.”

When Williams was dismissed in March 2020, Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball said any criminal conviction was “serious and likely to have an adverse impact on public confidence in policing”.

A trial judge described the case as “completely tragic” following a distinguished career where Williams had taken on leading roles in the Metropolitan Police and been decorated by the Queen.

The officer, who uses her middle name Robyn at work, described herself as “wedded to” her job and had won praise for her work with Grenfell victims.

She earnt a Queen’s Police Medal for distinguished service in 2003 and a Royal Warrant the year before.

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.

Additional reporting by PA