Three Met officers deny sending grossly offensive messages to Sarah Everard's killer

16 March 2022, 10:26 | Updated: 16 March 2022, 11:14

All three men denied sending grossly offensive messages.
All three men denied sending grossly offensive messages. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Two serving Metropolitan Police officers and a former officer have denied sending grossly offensive messages to Sarah Everard's killer, Wayne Couzens.

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PC Jonathon Cobban, PC William Neville and former officer Joel Borders will go on trial at Westminster Magistrates court on July 28.

It comes after the police watchdog sent evidence concerning the officers for consideration of offences regarding "grossly offensive material" under the Communications Act.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) launched a probe into claims they and other officers sent "discriminatory messages" - reportedly racist and misogynistic - over WhatsApp after the information was recovered from an old mobile phone found during the police probe into Ms Everard's murder.

The three defendants appeared in the dock at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Wednesday charged with sending grossly offensive messages on a public communications network between April 5 and August 9 2019.

Their identities were initially kept secret when they were charged by postal requisition last month.

They spoke to confirm their names, addresses and dates of birth and entered not guilty pleas to each of the charges during a hearing lasting about 20 minutes.

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Nicholas Yeo, defending, said the issues in the case were "whether or not the messages were grossly offensive" and "whether or not the defendants had the Mens Rea to intend to be grossly offensive".

The court heard that evidence will include training courses the officers attended to assess whether they "should have known the content of the material they were exchanging was grossly offensive".

Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring granted Cobban, Neville and Borders unconditional bail.

"You have all pleaded not guilty to the various charges you face and that means of course there will need to be a trial," he said.

"That trial will take place at this court on July 28 and 29. I'm going to release you all on unconditional bail."

The trial will determine whether the messages were indeed "grossly" offensive.

Wayne Couzens to die behind bars

It comes after Couzens was given a whole-life sentence back in September.

The serving officer handcuffed 33-year-old Sarah Everard in a "false arrest" before abducting her on the evening of March 3 last year.

Two witnesses saw him detain Sarah on the street and assumed he was acting legitimately, the Old Bailey heard in a two-day sentencing.

Ms Everard was abducted at the height of the Covid-19 lockdown and was more likely to submit to the accusation she broke Covid-19 rules, prosecutors said.