Two Metropolitan Police officers were today found guilty of sending grossly offensive misogynistic and racist messages in a WhatsApp group with Sarah Everard’s killer.
Metropolitan Police serving officer Jonathon Cobban and former PC Joel Borders, who ‘joked’ about raping colleagues with Wayne Couzens, have been convicted in the City of London Magistrates’ Court and have been warned that they risked a prison sentence.
PC William Neville, 33, was granted permission to share such documents by the court.
A judge has called messages sent by police officers from a WhatsApp group with Sarah Everard’s killer, including jokes about the use of weapons against disabled people, ‘sickening’ and ‘disgusting’.
Constables met William Neville, 34, and Jonathon Cobban, 35, and former PC Joel Borders, 45, were members of the chat called “Bottle and Stoppers” with Wayne Couzens.
In comments from April 5, 2019, Cobban and Borders exchanged comments about tassing children, animals, and “downys,” a term used by Borders that the prosecution said referred to people with Downy Syndrome. of Down.
Jonathon Cobban, 35, a serving Metropolitan Police officer, attends Westminster Magistrates’ Court on July 29
Former Metropolitan Police officer Joel Borders arriving at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, London, on July 28
At the start of her judgment today, District Judge Sarah Turnock said it was ‘abhorrent’ that Borders was ‘showing the most capable attitude by then adding a disabled person to the disgusting list of victims of Cobban”.
“I can honestly say that I consider it disgusting to think of a police officer joking about the use of firearms in this way,” she added.
Couzens, a former parliamentary and diplomatic protection officer, was sentenced last year to a life sentence for the kidnapping, rape and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard.
Detectives investigating the case discovered the allegedly offensive material in a WhatsApp group on one of Couzens’ phones.
In posts, officers discuss ‘DV fingering [domestic violence] victims and raping and beating a colleague with whom Borders was to begin training.
Cobban and Borders each denied five counts of sending via public communications network an offensive matter.
Borders was found guilty on all counts while Cobban was found guilty on three of the counts but cleared of the other two.
Neville, of Weybridge, Surrey, denied and was cleared of two identical charges.
District Judge Sarah Turnock adjourned the sentence until November 2, telling Borders and Cobban: ‘You have been found guilty of these offences.
And these offenses make no mistake about it are extremely serious.
“You are both facing a very real prospect, in my opinion, of going to jail.”
Edward Brown, prosecuting, said earlier: “The defendants were part of a WhatsApp group with the title ‘Bottle and Stoppers / Atkin’s puppets’ with four other officers.
“It should be noted that from time to time, correspondents sent messages on work-related topics such as training [and] for advice.
“It follows that this was a close-knit group of police officers … and there is no evidence that any of the defendants (or the other members of the group) ‘called’ or challenged one of their co-defendants upon receiving what the prosecution says were offensive messages.
“The prosecution’s case is that at the time, each of the defendants was a serving police officer, trained and employed to protect and support the citizens of a very diverse city.
“There were no isolated incidents that the co-correspondent did not feel able to object to.
“Each defendant actively participated and chose to remain in the group.”
Referring specifically to Borders’ message about the rape and beating of a female colleague he was about to spar with, Brown said, “The message is threatening and aggressive in nature, we submit it.” It’s victim blaming, derogatory to victims of rape and sexual violence and to women in general, like the words “sneaky bitch”.
Then, referring to Cobban and Neville’s exchange about the restraint of a young girl, Brown said: “This, by Neville (but then backed in his feelings by Cobban) implied to any sensible observer that Neville appreciated the need , while on duty, physically to restrain a very vulnerable and disturbed 15-year-old girl because he had fun, or at least was inspired by his experience of…with, I quote, a “hug from wrestling”, and we say it’s act like rape – Fancy or non-consensual physical touching.
In 2017, Cobban had volunteered as a civilian nuclear police race and diversity watchdog, the court heard.
Mr Brown said the role required specialist knowledge and understanding.
Cobban is part of an equality advisory support network to provide social, moral and professional support to employees with protected characteristics.
The three men were transferred to the Metropolitan Police Service in February 2019.
Giving evidence, Borders said, “I was saying she’s the kind of person who would lead you, sleep with you, and then make a false allegation against you.”
“So really, the rape and beating should have been in quotes, but that’s not the text – it’s never grammatically correct.
“It was totally over the top.”
He continued: “I know it’s just me saying it, but I was well thought out in the job.
“You can ask anyone – people actively wanted to be matched with me. I was good at work.
“I laugh at things that maybe I shouldn’t laugh at, but when you tell a joke, you don’t laugh at the subject of the joke; you laugh at the joke.
Cobban had denied that his posts could be grossly offensive and said they were examples of a dark sense of humor that helped him cope with his job.
He said: “I had no reasonable expectation that these messages were or could be read by anyone else.
“I meant that these posts should be considered ‘humorous banter and nothing more.’
“They were nothing more than a dark, thoughtless sense of humor.
“None of these messages were sent maliciously.
“Those are not the opinions I had then, before and they are certainly not the opinions I have now.”
Cobban was specifically asked about an exchange in which he and Neville made fun of ‘[pinning] a 15-year-old girl going crazy on the floor”.
Neville writes, “I knew all the wrestling hugs would come in handy at some point.”
Cobban replies, “Haha, wrestling hugs always come in handy…good skills!”
Mr Brown suggested to Cobban that ‘fighting cuddles’ referred to ‘something intimate when restraining a 15-year-old girl’.
Cobban claimed it was a “slang term for a restraint technique approved by the Home Office.”
He said: ‘It’s a technique I learned at the Metropolitan Police Service.
“It’s very similar to a term used – ‘met bundle’.”
“A met beam is a multiple officer restraint technique where multiple officers are restraining a person who is possibly in extreme strength and the term ‘wrestling hug’ is just a single officer restraining someone, if that makes sense.
“Given the context that I have just explained to the court, I do not consider it offensive in any way.”
Neville acknowledged having received extensive training on diversity and equality and dealing with vulnerable victims, but denied having that in mind when sending the messages.
He told the court: ‘We’ve spent more time going through the code of conduct in this courtroom than I have in my entire career.
On August 9, 2019, Neville and Cobban discussed “landmarks” on their “patch.”
When Cobban says “the biggest mosque in London” is on his patch, Neville replied, “Haha!” This is useful if you need to execute a warrant, you will know where they are.
Neville confirmed he was referring to a warrant under the Terrorism Act, but denied implying that all Muslims were terrorists.
He said: “For me, with the dark sense of humor discussed earlier, I’m not saying every Muslim is a terrorist.”
“Would I say it out loud? It depended on who I said it to, of course, because to some people it might be offensive.
‘I would just like to say that one of our close friends, almost a member of our family, is a Muslim.
“I made that reference and said that joke and they laughed because they understood the humor of myself and my family, the background that I had and my childhood.
‘It’s a joke.’
“It’s black humor, it’s satire. You can text something unintentionally in the literal sense.
‘It is sent in a nano-second.
“When you joke around, when you joke around with your homies, you laugh at each other and it’s instant humor that comes out, very quick fire.
Cobban, of Didcot, Oxfordshire, and Borders, of Preston, Lancs, each denied five counts of sending through a public communications network an offensive matter … Borders was found guilty of all charges while that Cobban was found guilty of three counts and cleared of two others.
Neville, of Weybridge, Surrey, denied and was cleared of two identical charges.
Sentencing has been adjourned until November 2 at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.