Scotland Yard has seized racist literature and pictures of Adolf Hitler during an investigation into a network of Nazi-sympathising prison officers.
Police swooped on the homes of prison staff after an investigation into allegations of racial harassment at the prisons where they worked. Two male prison officers, one in his thirties and the other in his forties, and a female officer in her forties have been arrested.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "[They] were arrested in connection with allegations of racially aggravated harassment and offences relating to the possession of racially offensive material."
The arrests followed raids on two homes in north London by officers from the Metropolitan Police special inquiry team on 3 July. The female officer is understood to be the partner of one of the men and that they are based at Holloway women's prison, north London. The other officer worked at Pentonville men's prison, also in north London.
The officers were taken to a police station in central London and bailed to reappear in November, pending further inquiries. All three have been suspended. The police apparently began investigating after complaints of racist behaviour by staff at Holloway prison.
The arrests follow the dismissal of a prison officer in May after he refused to stop wearing Nazi symbols at work. The officer, based at Frankland prison in Durham, was reported for wearing tie pins displaying a swastika and a German SS badge. He is appealing against his dismissal.
The new inquiry comes as the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) is investigating racism in the Prison Service. The CRE began its investigation after the Prison Service's race adviser, Judy Clements, found alarming evidence of discrimination by staff at Brixton prison, south London.
Her findings followed concerns over the behaviour of skinhead inmates at Parc prison in south Wales, and the failings that led to the murder of Zahid Mubarek by his racist cellmate at Feltham young offenders' institution, west London, in March last year.
Earlier this year, the director general of the Prison Service, Martin Narey, revealed he had received hate mail, probably from within the Prison Service, after he said there was institutional racism in Britain's jails. He said the letters, which were passed on to police, were "extremely offensive" and contained personal threats. Mr Narey has said that membership of any far-right organisation is "incompatible" with working in the Prison Service.
Yesterday Phil Wheatley, the Prison Service deputy director general, said: "We are determined to do whatever we can to root out racist behaviour where we find it. If we believe there is evidence of a crime we will involve the police."
The latest arrests have concerned the Prison Officers' Association. At least one of the arrested officers is thought to be a member.
Mark Healy, the association's chairman, said: "If [the officers] are found guilty of racism in any way then they will be thrown out of the POA. Putting up material in their accommodation would be enough. I would hope the Prison Service would sack them as well."
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