Met Police officer and ex-PC sentenced to jail for sharing offensive messages with Sarah Everard’s killer

UK

A Metropolitan Police officer and his former colleague have been jailed for 12 weeks for sharing grossly offensive messages in a WhatsApp group with Sarah Everard’s killer – and then bailed ahead of an appeal against their convictions.

Constable Jonathon Cobban, 35, and ex-PC Joel Borders, 45, were found guilty of the offences in September.

The pair were found to be members of a chat group called “Bottle and Stoppers”, along with Wayne Couzens, earlier this year.

Couzens is currently serving a whole-life sentence for the kidnap, rape and murder of 33-year-old Ms Everard in March last year, while he was working in the police force.

During the investigation it emerged Couzens had been linked to an alleged indecent exposure incident as far back as 2015.
Image:
Wayne Couzens

In the group, Cobban and Borders were found to have swapped messages about tasering children and people with disabilities, and which referred to Hounslow as a “Somali s*******” in 2019.

In an exchange on 5 April that year, Borders wrote: “I can’t wait to get on guns so I can shoot some c*** in the face!”

Cobban responded: “Me too. I want to taser a cat and a dog to see which reacts better. I think the cat will get more p***** off and the dog will s***. I wanna test this theory. Same with children. Zap zap you little f******.”

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In the same month, Borders joked about raping a female colleague, who he referred to as a “sneaky b****”.

District Judge Sarah Turnock jailed Cobban and Borders for 12 weeks, saying she could not think of “more grossly offensive messages” – but bailed the pair ahead of an appeal against their convictions at the High Court.

“They encapsulated the full range of prejudiced views, racism, misogyny, ableism and homophobia,” the judge said.

“The persons to whom these messages relate will undoubtedly been caused great distress by knowing police officers find it funny to joke about them in such a deeply offensive manner.

“Significant harm has undoubtedly been caused to public confidence in policing as a result of these offences.”

The officers described the messages as “banter” and dismissed many of the comments as examples of “dark humour”.

But the judge rejected this account, finding that at the very least the extensive police training they had each received meant they would have been aware of the public reaction to their messages.

She said Cobban and Borders had shown no “genuine remorse” but were “indignant” to find themselves before the court and felt they were being “scapegoated”.

“This humour was covert and done in a covert way, to exchange banter in a safe space and they felt like they had free rein to share their views without fear of retribution,” she said.

Nicholas Yeo, defending, said that along with losing their jobs, Borders and Cobban would be victims of “cancel culture” because their names have “become toxic”.

“If they had committed robbery or GBH they would find it easier to find a job than being linked to the furore of Mr Couzens,” he said.

“They were in no better position than anyone else to know what he would go on and do.”

PC William Neville, 34, who was also a member of the WhatsApp chat, was cleared in September of two counts of sending grossly offensive messages.

The police watchdog previously said all six officers who were in the group with Couzens are accused of breaching police standards of professional behaviour.

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