Top anti-gangs worker accuses Met police of defamation and says officers ‘blacklisted’ him after wrongful raid
PUBLISHED: 17:45 03 January 2019 | UPDATED: 11:00 04 January 2019
A leading anti-gangs advisor from Hackney is in line for a huge payout from the Met after police wrongly raided his home and got him “blacklisted” by national business partners.
Gwenton Sloley, who grew up in Stoke Newington, has been lauded by the Home Office for his work tackling violent crime among youths.
The former gang member is the founder of Crying Sons, through which he trains government officers, police, NHS workers, faith groups and councils on how to spot and engage with youngsters on the verge of entering gang life. He also helped set up the London Gang Exit programme.
But now he says officers are spreading news of the October raid – which was actually intended for the previous occupant who had moved out five years earlier – to ruin his career.
As a result he’s billing the Met for £3million for defamation of character and £140,000 for loss of earnings.
Gwenton, 35, was angered by the damage to his Lewisham home, saying the officers – some of whom he had trained – went over and above what was necessary.
After police acknowledged the error, he was offered compensation for the damage.
But even as this was taking place, other officers in Lewisham began contacting Gwenton’s partners in different police forces, NHS trusts and councils to say his home had been searched – despite the fact he hadn’t been arrested.
Lewisham police – whose former borough commander Ch Supt Kate Halpin awarded Gwenton a commendation in 2016 – have now told him the officers had a duty to let his employers know about the raid due to the “sensitive nature” of his work. Yet for three weeks afterwards he was allowed to continue working with them on murder investigations and relocating witnesses.
An investigation into the fiasco has now been launched by the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS).
“They have breached data protection and my human rights,” Gwenton told the Gazette. “Police contacted people all around the country – even people I wasn’t doing work with – saying: ‘He’s not a suspect but his property was caught up in a police operation.’
“As soon as those officers heard: ‘It’s Gwenton’s address,’ they were thinking: ‘Let’s blacklist him.’
“The same police that were in my house I have worked with for nearly 10 years. There are certain people who think I’m getting too big for my boots and were thinking: ‘Gwenton’s been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.’”
Gwenton, whose expert comments have regularly featured in the Gazette’s coverage of youth violence in recent years, was training police in Manchester when the raid took place and didn’t find out for days.
Over the following weeks he began getting emails from employers cancelling his contracts, which included talks at Hackney schools and training with Islington police.
To make matters worse, the police have said there is “credible evidence” that Gwenton – as a high-profile anti-gangs worker – is now in danger because the eventual prosecution of the real suspect let to details of his address getting out.
Gwenton has not been back to his home since being told this, and he and his children are living elsewhere. He is also receiving counselling for the distress caused. He added: “I’ve worked with the police for over a decade and if they could use such tactics against me, are we surprised young people and the community at large are afraid to turn to the police for help?”
Gwenton’s MP Ellie Reeves is supporting him, and so too are councillors in Lewisham.
He has still not been given back items seized from his flat, including Gazette clippings taken from his walls, cash to pay for the funeral of his friend and colleague Bobby Martin and his post, which includes many now-unpaid bills.
Gwenton added: “Not in my wildest imagination could I ever have envisaged elements within the Met, the very organisation I have worked tirelessly with over the years, would then seek to destroy my reputation and set about maliciously ruining my professional career.
“I feel completely violated by the experience.”
A Met spokesperson said: “A complaint in relation to damage of reputation and character was received and the DPS is investigating.
“As with any investigation, complainants are kept up to date on progress.
“This followed an investigation by officers from the South East Command Unit at Lewisham in which a 35-year-old man was interviewed under caution in relation to an operation where a number of drugs and a weapon was found [not at Gwenton’s property]. He was not arrested.”