A police officer who was named on a leaked list of BNP members is returning to work
Joe Cutting, a constable in Southwark, was suspended in November after he featured on a list of 12,000 members published on the internet. He is now being allowed to return after an internal Metropolitan police investigation found there was no evidence to justify sacking him.
The force said Pc Cutting, who was due back on the beat this week, had been "exonerated" by the inquiry, but declined to explain how his name had come to appear on the BNP membership list.
The decision will raise new concerns about alleged racism within the force following a spate of discrimination claims in recent months and allegations from the National Black Police Association of continuing prejudice. It will also present an immediate challenge for the new Met Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, who was appointed yesterday.
Some of Pc Cutting's fellow officers were reported to have had serious concerns about his return to duty. It is not known if Sir Paul was informed of the decision taken by the Met's directorate of professional standards, which is headed by Commander Moir Stewart. Pc Cutting appeared on the BNP list with a Met volunteer special constable. Fellow officers are said to have marched Pc Cutting out of Southwark police station after stripping him of his warrant card.
It is understood that at least one disciplinary hearing was held at which witnesses for Pc Cutting, who has been in the Met for about four years, managed to convince investigators that he was not involved with the far-Right BNP. One unconfirmed explanation that is thought to have been offered is that his name was added to the membership list after he wrote a cheque on behalf of another person. The Met confirmed that Pc Cutting had been cleared to return to work and said that a full investigation had found "no evidence to prove" that he was a member of the BNP.
A spokesman added that the matter had also been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
In a statement, the Met added: "On 21 November 2008 two serving Metropolitan police officers were suspended following the publication, on the internet, of a membership list for the British National Party. One of these officers was a full-time police constable and the other a volunteer special police constable. The Metropolitan Police's Directorate of Professional Standards commenced an investigation into this matter. Following this investigation both officers have been exonerated and are returning to full duties with immediate effect."
Police officers are banned under the legally-binding 2003 Police Regulations from membership of the BNP, the National Front and Combat 18. They are also prohibited from engaging in activity which is deemed "likely to interfere with the impartial discharge of their police duties".
A separate policy introduced by the Association of Chief Police Officers in 2004 also states that officers cannot be members of the BNP on the grounds that this would conflict with their duty to promote racial equality.
The new controversy follows a series of high-profile discrimination claims against the Met from senior Asian officers, including the former Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur. His claim, which was strongly denied by the Met and former Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, was settled out of court with no admission of liability, while a second, equally prominent case involving Met Commander Shabir Hussain, in which he claimed that there was a "golden circle" of white officers in the force, was ultimately rejected by a tribunal as unfounded.
Despite this, the National Black Police Association last year called for potential ethnic minority recruits to boycott the force, claiming that it was racist and that senior managers were not tackling the problem seriously.
Supporters point out that the Met has significantly increased the number of ethnic minority recruits entering the force and now has one of the best records in the country for improving diversity.
Investigations into other names on the leaked BNP membership list have suggested that some were wrongly included with the total number of more than 12,000 individuals listed on the document thought to be considerably higher than the party's actual membership.