Two police officers jailed for sending sexist and racist messages in sick WhatsApp group with killer cop Wayne Couzens

2 November 2022, 15:59 | Updated: 2 November 2022, 17:55

Former Pc Joel Borders (L) and Pc Jonathon Cobban, (r) have each been sentenced to three months. They were in a WhatsApp group with killer Wayne Couzens (centre)
Former Pc Joel Borders (L) and Pc Jonathon Cobban, (r) have each been sentenced to three months. They were in a WhatsApp group with killer Wayne Couzens (centre). Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Two Metropolitan Police officers have been sentenced to three months' imprisonment after sharing racist, homophobic, misogynistic and ableist messages in a WhatsApp group with Wayne Couzens before he murdered Sarah Everard.

Pc Jonathon Cobban, 35, and former Pc Joel Borders, 46, were members of a chat called "Bottle and Stoppers" on the encrypted platform with Couzens, 49. The pair have been bailed ahead of an appeal.

Westminster Magistrates' Court heard how they joked about raping a female colleague, talked about tasering children and people with disabilities, and displayed racist views in the group in 2019.

The messages were discovered after then serving Met officer Couzens kidnapped, raped and strangled to death 33-year-old marketing executive Ms Everard in March last year.

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Cobban was found guilty of three counts of sending grossly offensive messages on a public communications network, while Borders was convicted of five charges after a Westminster Magistrates' Court trial.

Met Commander Jon Savell, from Professionalism, said he was "deeply sorry" for the behaviour of the officers and said he was "appalled at the disgusting messages".

"I speak for all of the Met when I say I’m appalled at the disgusting messages," he said.

"I am deeply sorry these officers have let down the public, and their Met colleagues, with their vile language and behaviour.

"We welcome the sentence and it should serve as a reminder that we will investigate and work with the IOPC and CPS to prosecute any of our officers who break the law in this way.

"Our officers swear an oath to accord all people respect and we demand the highest standards of conduct from them.

"Those who corrupt us with unacceptable attitudes, language, and prejudices will be sought out and dealt with in the strongest possible terms."

District Judge Sarah Turnock jailed Cobban and Borders for 12 weeks on Wednesday, 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.

"There was no intention on the part of the defendants to cause any harm to the persons to whom these messages relate or the minor groups of society who are undoubtedly effected by these messages," she continued.

Wayne Couzens was sentenced to a whole life term for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard
Wayne Couzens was sentenced to a whole life term for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard. Picture: Alamy

"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."

The judge said the messages "represent jokes specifically targeted or about people or groups as police officers "they had sworn an oath to protect".

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

In the group chat, which included seven new Met Police officers, including Couzens, Cobban joked about sexually abusing domestic violence survivors who he said "love it... that's why they are repeat victims more often than not".

The judge said she could not "think of a worse comment for a police officer to say" and criticised Cobban calling a victim of self-harming he was guarding in hospital a "fag".

In an exchange on April 5 2019, 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 pissed off and the dog will shit. I wanna test this theory.

"Same with children. Zap zap you little f******."

Borders replied suggesting adding "downys", a term the prosecution said referred to people with Down's syndrome, to the list.

In their chat, Feltham, in west London, was referred to as "filthy" and Hounslow, also in West London, as a "Somali shithole".

On April 25 2019, Borders joked about a female colleague, who he referred to as a "sneaky bitch", "lead(ing) him on" and "get(ting)" him jailed for raping and beating her.

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.

"It is precisely the covert nature of these comments which makes the prejudice so difficult to address within the police force.

"It is the contrast between the exemplary conduct of these defendants and the covert views expressed in these messages which causes me such concern."