A serving Metropolitan Police officer and a former constable have been sentenced to 12 weeks in prison over offensive misogynistic and racist messages shared in a WhatsApp group with killer cop Wayne Couzens.
PC Jonathon Cobban, 35, and former PC Joel Borders, 45, sent the messages to members of a group named “Bottle and Stoppers”, swapping violent fantasies and using derogatory slurs aimed at black people and Muslims.
The messages came to light after the arrest of Couzens, a member of the WhatsApp group, for the kidnap, rape, and murder of Sarah Everard in March last year.
Cobban and Borders both denied that their messages were “grossly offensive”, but were convicted after a trial by District Judge Sarah Turnock.
Sentencing at Westminster magistrates court, the judge said their messages have “undoubtedly caused significant harm to the reputations of police forces in England and Wales”.
She said although messages were never intended to be made public, those people and groups referenced “will undoubtedly have been caused great distress by learning police officers found it funny to joke about them in such a deeply offensive manner”.
The judge said the messages were “made fun of people or group of persons they had sworn an oath to protect”.
“I can honestly not think of more grossly offensive messages then those Mr Cobban and Mr Borders are responsible for, comments encompassing the full range of prejudicial views - racist, misogynist, ableist, and homophobic”, she said, adding they had risked “normalising” the views within the police force.
She sentenced Cobban and Borders to 12 weeks in prison each.
However they were granted bail, rather than going into prison, as an appeal against their convictions is being mounted.
The judge poured scorn on their claims of remorse, saying they are “indignant” that they have been prosecuted and convicted but had shown at trial that they do not recognise the harm they have caused.
She pointed out Borders had claimed the messages had been “blown out of proportion” and suggested a domestic violence victim might have liked the derogatory joke about her, while Cobban had called his messages “obviously sarcastic”.
Another Met Police PC, William Neville, 34, was also accused over messages found in the WhatsApp group, but was acquitted at trial.
Borders resigned from the Met after coming under suspicion, while Cobban remained a serving officer at the time of his conviction.
In messages aired at the trial, Cobban likened driving through Hounslow in west London to “FGM patrol”, said he was “hoping to get into a fight” to prove himself, and discussed a violent fantasy.
“I can’t wait to get on guns so I can shoot some c*** in the face”, wrote Borders.
Cobban replied: “Me too. I want to taser a cat and a dog to see which reacts better. I think the cat wil get more pissed off and the dog will sh*t it.
“I wanna test this theory. Same with children. Zap zap you little f***ers.”
Borders then replied: “And a couple of downys?”, believed to be a reference to people with Downs Syndrome.
In another exchange, the officer said about a female Met colleague: “Lead me on then get me locked up when I rape and beat her! Sneaky b*tch.”
Prosecutor Edward Brown KC told the court: “The defendants were all serving police officers when the messages were sent. On occasion, they were on duty at the time these messages were sent.”
In June 21, 2019, an unnamed officer wrote: “Mate they aren’t gonna ditch you with your skill set unless you finger a DV victim.”
Cobban then replied: “That’s alright, DV victims love it… that’s why they are repeat victims more often than not.”
The judge said she “couldn’t think of a worse comment for a police officer to say”, condemning him for “victim blaming and shaming”.
Later in June 2019, Cobban wrote: “Got a bus through Hounslow … what a f***ing Somali sh*t hole. Great. There goes pussy patrol… more like fgm patrol.
Borders wrote back: “Feltham is worse! I went there the other week and I felt like a spot on a domino!”, with a series of emojis.
When another officer commented “Filthy Feltham”, Cobban wrote: “Walking through to hounslow central, it was like walking along a dulux colour code.
“Not even the shops were in English.”
Borders said: “Yeah, all shades of brown?!”, and Cobban replied: “Yep and I think I was one yellow. But he was lost cos he asked me for directions.
He added: “Hounslow twinned with Bradford”, and Borders commented: “You know when it’s getting near to the end of night shift in Hounslow because you can hear the call to prayer.”
On August 9, Borders wrote: “Lucky bastard! I bet I get paired up with the only gay on section!”
Cobban replied: “Oh yeah I dealt with one of those, hospital guard for some attention seeking self harming fag.”
The judge said she considered this the most serious offence, for “targeting a vulnerable victim” who Cobban had been charged with protecting from harm.
In a discussion on April 5, 2019, Borders said: “I can’t wait to get on guns so I can shoot some c*** in the face.”
Cobban replied: “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 sh*t it. I wanna test this theory. Same with children. Zap zap you little f***ers. Borders then says: “And a couple of downys?”
The officer attempted to portray the messages as “banter” and examples of “dark humour”. But the judge rejected their defences, calling the WhatsApp material “sickening”. “The WhatsApp group in which these messages were posted appears therefore to have been viewed by the defendants as a safe space, involving a small number of like-minded individuals, in which they had free reign to share controversial and deeply offensive messages without fear of retribution”, she said.
In a probation service interview, Cobban said he “wanted to be eaten alive when he read (the messages), they made him feel sick and he was utterly ashamed and embarrassed”.
Borders said he is “disgusted and embarrassed by what he had done, he deeply regretted that innocent people have been affected by what he has done, and he has done damage to the force.
“Everyone’s job is made harder and this makes me feel like crap”, he told probation.
The court heard many of the messages were sent when the officers were in training to join the force, though some were sent by Cobban while he was on active duty.
In mitigation, their lawyer Nicholas Yeo said the two men are suffering from “cancel culture” and have suffered more because of their case’s link to Couzens.
“It is not just that they have lost their jobs and livelihoods, the media attention has propelled their names into the public gaze - in effect their names have become toxic”, he said.
“If they had committed a robbery or a GBH, they would probably find it easier to find a job until the furore over Couzens has died out.”
Referring to the murder of Ms Everard, Mr Yeo added: “They were in no better position than anyone else who knew the individual concerned to know what he would go and do, in an extraordinary series of offences.”
Borders, from Preston, and Cobban, from Didcot in Oxfordshire, both denied five charges each of sending by public communication network an offensive, indecent, obscene, or menacing message or matter.
Borders was convicted of all five charges he faced, while Cobban was cleared of two and found guilty of three charges.
In a statement released after the sentencing, Commander Jon Savell, from the Met Police’s Professionalism division, said: “I speak for all of the Met when I say I’m appalled at the disgusting messages.
“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.”