An appeal by a decorated former police chief against her conviction for having a child abuse video on her phone has been refused by the court of appeal.
The former superintendent Robyn Williams was convicted in November 2019after being sent an unsolicited video via WhatsApp of a child being abused, despite never viewing the images. The prosecution accepted she had no sexual interest in children, but she was sentenced to 200 hours of community service for possession of an indecent image.
The conviction led to her fast-track sacking by the Metropolitan police, ending a 36-year career during which she had been hailed as a role model, commended for her work after the Grenfell Tower fire and awarded the Queen’s Police Medal.
Williams’s barrister, Anesta Weekes, told the court there was “not even a suggestion” her client had watched the 54-second video. But the appeal was rejected by Dame Victoria Sharp, sitting with Mr Justice Sweeney and Mrs Justice Ellenbogen.
Williams had been sent the clip by her older sister Jennifer Hodge, 57, who had originally been sent it by her long-term boyfriend, 63-year-old Dido Massivi. The convictions of all three under paedophilia laws were upheld.
Sharp said: “The applications made on behalf of all three appellants in this case are refused for reasons which will be handed down later.”
Weekes told the appeal court that the case against Williams, 56, at trial was that “there was a clear image and you were looking at a thumbnail for some 12 seconds, so you must have seen that indecent image”.
But she said experts were not able to properly examine Williams’s phone, adding: “There is an element of unfairness here if you do not even have the very phone and you cannot demonstrate on the phone … how clear it [the thumbnail] would be.”
Richard Wright QC, for the crown, said: “The experts were plainly not giving evidence about what Ms Williams did see. They were giving evidence about what was present on her phone to be seen and that was the central issue in the case and one which required expert evidence to reconstruct the thumbnail, its clarity, its size and how it would have appeared in the absence of the original thumbnail.”
Hodge, of Brent in north-west London, was found guilty of distributing an indecent image of a child, actions she told the court were intended to find the abuser responsible, and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service.
Massivi, also of Brent, was convicted of two counts of distributing an indecent photograph of a child, and one count of possessing an extreme pornographic image portraying a person having sex with a horse.