A “TOXIC and abhorrent” specialist police unit named part of its office ‘African corner’, a misconduct hearing has heard.

Hampshire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) North had placed a map of the continent on a whiteboard where two officers of African heritage sat.

The nickname was made when the team were based in Whitchurch, before it moved to the Northern Police Investigation Centre, based in Basingstoke.

Detective Sergeant Greg Willcox said that he thought it was “to reflect their background or culture” and considered it a “positive” association.

The two officers subject to the nickname were Detective Constable Sol Koranteng - who is not accused as part of the case – and former PC Craig Bannerman, who faces misconduct charges.

DS Willcox told the hearing: “I don’t think it was funny as far as I was aware. I don’t think it was made to be humorous.

“I thought it was made by Mr Bannerman and DC Koranteng to reflect their background or culture.

“DC Koranteng and Mr Bannerman would regularly talk about their culture. They would bring food in to try and share their culture with the team.”

In another incident an email was sent to the team regarding a leaving gift for member of staff, which read: “I know Jean is keen to visit Ann Summer. We will be benefitting from her valued customer points and club card.”

The email which joked about another member of the team Trainee Detective Constable Jean Englefield - who not facing charges - was an inappropriate subject for a work email.

DS Willcox said in interview: “There are elements of the email that are using sarcasm or irony, I can both recognise and see the humour in these comments and do not think they are inappropriate.”

However, he is accused of not challenging the inappropriate email, along with another of incidents while in a supervisory role, which arose from covert recording of the unit based at the Northern Police Investigation Centre, based in Basingstoke, and took place over 24 days between March 9 and April 2 2018.

Six officers, including DS Willcox, face gross misconduct charges for making comments of discriminatory nature or of an inappropriate or offensive nature.

DS Willcox was challenged about the unit persistent use of expletives in emails, text messages and in conversation, but he has insisted that swearing was part of the force’s culture.

During the investigation it was found that the 52-year-old used his work phone to discuss matters surrounding his roles at Stockbridge Youth Football Club, which was prohibited from doing following a change in constabulary policy.

It is argued DS Willcox was “spending too much time thinking about Stockbridge FC rather than focusing on his role as a supervisor.”

But in evidence he said: “I acquired a personal phone and the difficulties I had I had 10 years-worth of contacts stored up in my phone. Contacts from police colleagues, family and friends, informants, victims of crime, offenders. I couldn’t send a message to all my contacts to tell them my new phone number, I didn’t want to give my personal number to a number of people that would have been in my phone."

DS Willcox is also alleged to have falsely recorded hours and overtime on 23 March 2018 when he attended a driving awareness course whilst he was on duty, for a speeding offence. The father of four said that this was “a mistake”.

The hearing, which is being held at Hampshire Constabulary’s headquarters in Eastleigh, continues.