Police have investigated many “disgusting” and “very real” threats to the Duchess of Sussex, the former head of UK counter-terror policing has said.
“If you’d seen the stuff that was written and you were receiving it … the kind of rhetoric that’s online, if you don’t know what I know, you would feel under threat all of the time,” Mr Basu told Channel 4 News, adding: “We had teams of people investigating it.”
Meghan quickly became the subject of intense racist and sexist abuse after her relationship with the Duke of Sussex was made public in 2016, and Prince Harry saw fit that November to issue a sharp statement condemning the vitriol against her on social media and in tabloid coverage.
Security concerns have since been of paramount concern to the couple, particularly since stepping back as senior royals, and in their interview with Oprah Winfrey last March, Meghan alleged that she had personally pleaded with the royal family not to remove Prince Harry’s security detail.
In one instance investigated as a racist hate crime by police in 2018, the couple were sent white powder claimed to be anthrax in a malicious hoax. The following year, two neo-Nazis were jailed after inciting terror attacks on targets including Prince Harry, who was branded a “race traitor” in offending online material.
Extreme right-wing terrorism was the “fastest-growing” threat in the UK during his time as counter-terror chief, said Mr Basu – rising from 6 per cent to 20 per cent of officers’ workload in the six years to 2021.
Speaking hours before leaving the Metropolitan Police after 30 years in the force, Mr Basu also condemned home secretary Suella Braverman’s “horrific” language around immigration, saying it revived memories of the violent racism his parents endured after Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech.
“I find some of the commentary coming out of the Home Office inexplicable,” said Mr Basu, the most senior police officer of colour in the country. “It is unbelievable to hear a succession of very powerful politicians who look like this talking in language that my father would have remembered from the 1968. It’s horrific.”
Mr Basu recalled his parents being stoned in the streets in the wake of the infamous speech, which Powell gave in “the constituency next to where my parents lived. It “made their life hell”, he said. “A mixed-race couple walking through the streets in the 1960s. Stoned.”
The outgoing senior officer said there should be “zero tolerance” of prejudiced people in policing – and commended new Met commissioner Sir Mark Rowley for “doing the right thing” by calling for more powers to sack officers.
Agreeing with Sir Mark’s assessment that hundreds of officers should be fired from the force, Mr Basu said: “There ought to be a zero tolerance for people who are prejudiced, who are corrupt, who are – have the kind of backgrounds of the ones you’ve described that shouldn’t be anywhere near policing.”
He added: “If you’re a police officer watching this and you are – like the vast majority of police officers – a good person who wants to do the right thing, then you have to be the person who doesn’t walk by when you see that kind of behaviour.”
Mr Basu also alleged that Downing Street has previously “interfered” in him being appointed to certain positions, when asked why he believes he was overlooked for the role as head of the National Crime Agency earlier this year.
“The reason for that [previous interference], I have not been told. I would surmise – and people who know me surmise – that it is because I've been outspoken about issues that do not fit with the current political administration,” he said. “They are wrong. Diversity and inclusion are two of the most important things for policing.”
No 10 told the broadcaster that the recruitment campaign for the top NCA role was “fair and open”, adding: “This is a statutory decision for the home secretary, following consultation with the Scottish ministers and the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland, in accordance with the Crime and Courts Act 2013.”
The Home Office said that Ms Braverman “expects forces to take a zero-tolerance approach to racism within their workplace”, adding: “But she is also very clear about the need to manage our borders effectively and have an asylum system that works for those in genuine need, as are the British people.
“We are actively pushing for a cultural change in the police, including via a targeted review of police dismissals to ensure officers who are not fit to serve can be swiftly removed.”