Police officer sacked in BNP row

A serving police officer named in a leaked list of British National Party (BNP) members has been sacked, his force said.

Pc Steve Bettley of Merseyside Police was included in the list of the far-right party's entire membership register which was leaked on an internet blog.

The officer, who was briefly the driver for chief constable Bernard Hogan Howe, has been suspended from duty since the list became public last November.

A Merseyside Police spokeswoman said: "A Merseyside Police misconduct panel has dismissed Constable Steve Bettley after concluding he had knowingly been a member of the British National Party from March 2007 and up to March 2008.

"In determining their findings, the panel confirmed there was no evidence that Pc Bettley had ever displayed any racist views or discriminatory behaviour in the workplace.

"The panel determined that Pc Bettley's membership of the BNP is a clear breach of lawful orders and police regulations as the party's views are incompatible with the duties and values of the police service."

A ban on serving police officers joining the BNP was introduced by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) in 2004.

Merseyside Police Federation, which represented Pc Bettley at the misconduct hearings, said he accepted his name was on the BNP list but he denied being a member of the party.

He said he was enrolled in the party by a family member without his knowledge and he planned to appeal against the dismissal.

A spokesman for Merseyside Police Federation said: "We are disappointed with the finding and sanction of the misconduct panel and do not believe that there is any evidence presented to the panel which would indicate that he was knowingly a member of the BNP.

"Consequently, the Police Federation believe that their decision that he was a member and can no longer serve with Merseyside Constabulary is flawed.

"The panel have also heard character evidence, including evidence from officers from minority backgrounds, and have accepted that Pc Bettley has always acted professionally and has never demonstrated any racist behaviour.

"The Police Federation will be fully supporting Pc Bettley through the appeals process which includes a Chief Constable's Review and Police Appeals Panel.

"As Pc Bettley was formerly the driver for Mr Hogan Howe we will be making a request that a chief constable from a different police force hears the review.

"Pc Bettley would like to place on record that he condemns racism and does not support the views of the British National Party."

The leak of the list, apparently by disgruntled former staff, provoked uproar after BNP members were revealed to be current and former servicemen, teachers and doctors.

The list included the names, professions, addresses and telephone numbers of thousands of BNP supporters.

When the list was published BNP leader Nick Griffin pledged to take court action against those behind the leak.

Dyfed-Powys Police is leading a joint investigation with the Information Commissioner's office into the alleged breach of the Data Protection Act.

Two people were arrested in Nottinghamshire on December 4 in connection with an allegation of a criminal offence under the Data Protection Act.

They remain on bail pending further enquiries.

Merseyside's deputy chief constable Bernard Lawson said: "Merseyside Police is committed to tackling discriminatory behaviour and building good race relations across Merseyside.

"As soon as we were made aware that Mr Bettley had been named on a BNP membership list an investigation was instigated and he was immediately suspended.

"We have an overriding legal duty to promote race equality and retain public confidence. Officers and police staff are banned from joining or promoting the BNP.

"Merseyside Police prides itself on the good community relations which have been built up with our diverse communities.

"The force expects the highest standards of integrity and professionalism from all our staff and the decision of the panel reinforces this.

"Throughout this process the force has consulted with the Black Police Association and the Independent Advisory Group."

Vinny Tomlinson, chairman of the Merseyside Black Police Association (MBPA), said: "The aims and objectives of the British National Party are totally incompatible with the duties and values of the British police service.

"MBPA believes that where it can be proven and is satisfied that a police officer or police staff member is a member or supportive of the aims and objectives of the British National Party, they should be dismissed from service.

"Institutional racism has not been eradicated from UK policing, despite some views expressed to the contrary, but the dismissal of Pc Bettley represents a significant seminal moment in the history of Merseyside Police that bodes well for the future."

There was no answer yesterday at Pc Bettley's home in Prenton, Wirral.

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