London — Five retired British police officers on Thursday admitted sending offensive and racist social media messages about Prince Harry's wife, the Duchess of Sussex, and others. The men, all in their 60s, were arrested after a BBC investigation last year sparked an internal police inquiry.
The charges say messages posted in a closed WhatsApp group referred to Harry and wife Meghan, as well as Prince William and his wife, Kate, and the late Queen Elizabeth II and her late husband, Prince Philip. Some also mentioned U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, former Home Secretary Priti Patel and former Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
Robert Lewis, Peter Booth, Anthony Elsom, Alan Hall and Trevor Lewton pleaded guilty at London's Westminster Magistrates' Court to sending by public communication grossly offensive racist messages. All are former members of London's Metropolitan Police department and spent time with the force's Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection branch, which guards politicians and diplomats.
The force said none of the suspects was a police officer when they sent the messages between 2020 and 2022, though the conversations have come to light months after a withering report found that "The Met," as the force is known, had lost the confidence of the people it serves because it is and doesn't do enough to weed out bad officers.
That report, based on a formal government inquiry, was commissioned after aby a serving officer in 2021.
The Metropolitan Police Service, which has more than 34,000 officers and is Britain's biggest force, must "change itself" or face being broken up after failing to address these longstanding problems for more than two decades, investigators said in the report published in March.
A sixth former officer, Michael Chadwell, denied one count of the same charge and is due to stand trial Nov. 6. The others are scheduled to be sentenced the same day.
The biracial American actress Meghan Markle married Prince Harry, King Charles III's second son, at Windsor Castle in 2018.
In early 2020, Harry and Meghan stepped away from royal duties and left the U.K., citing what they said were the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media.
for more features.