Met Police: Two officers convicted over ‘offensive’ WhatsApps to Sarah Everard’s killer Wayne Couzens
“The messages sent by these police officers were inexcusable and particularly disturbing given the profession they represent.”
Serving police constable Jonathon Cobban, 35, and former officer Joel Borders, 45, were found guilty by the City of London Magistrates’ Court today (Wednesday, September 21)
The messages were sent on a WhatsApp group that included Couzens, who is serving a whole life sentence for the abduction, rape and murder of 33-year-old Ms Everard.
They included messages about using firearms, and Tasers, against people and animals, as well as Borders suggesting the use of a Taser on someone with Down’s syndrome.
According to NationalWorld, 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” to the list - a term the prosecution said referred to people with Down’s Syndrome.
The pair claimed the exchanges were “banter”.
And on April 25, 2019, Borders reportedly spoke of “raping” and “beating” a female police officer, referring to her as a “sneaky b***h”, before on August 9, 2019, talking about pinning a 15-year-old girl to the floor during an incident.
He described this as “struggle snuggles”.
Judge Sarah Turnock said the language used was “misogynistic and aggressive in its nature and is a clear example of victim blaming”.
Delivering her verdict at City of London Magistrates’ Court, Judge Turnock also commented that it was “abhorrent” that Borders “demonstrates an ableist attitude by adding a disabled person to Cobban’s disgusting list of victims”.
She added: “I can honestly say that I consider it to be sickening to think of a police officer joking about using firearms in this way.”
They will be sentenced on November 2 at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
The conviction follows an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and a two-day trial at the court.
Borders was found guilty of five counts of sending grossly offensive messages on a public communications network, while Cobban was convicted of three counts of the same offence.
Their actions were contrary to section 127 of the Communications Act 2003, the IOPC said.
Another Met officer, PC William Neville, 34, was cleared of two counts of the same offence.
The court heard the messages were shared on and off duty between April and August 2019 with police colleagues who were part of a WhatsApp messaging group, the watchdog said.
These included racist and homophobic comments, derogatory remarks aimed at domestic abuse victims and people with disabilities.
Sal Naseem, from the IOPC, said: “The messages sent by these police officers were inexcusable and particularly disturbing given the profession they represent.
“Social media cannot be a hiding place for these types of views.
“Behaviour of this nature seriously undermines public confidence in policing.
“It is part of our role, and for police forces themselves, to ensure that it is rooted out and those responsible are held to account for their actions.
“It is another illustration of why we wrote to police chiefs last year highlighting our concerns about inappropriate use of social media and asking them to remind forces and officers of their obligations under the police Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Behaviour.“
The IOPC’s investigation began in April last year after a referral from the Met after the messages were discovered on a mobile belonging to one of the WhatsApp group members.
The phone had been seized by police in connection with a separate investigation.
Evidence was then referred to the CPS, which authorised charges against the officers.
The IOPC inquiry also found a case to answer against the officers for gross misconduct, along with another three officers, from the Met, Norfolk Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, who were not criminally investigated.
All six are accused of breaching police standards of professional behaviour between March 2019 and October 2019 by allegedly sending discriminatory or inappropriate messages, and failing to challenge or report inappropriate comments made by others.
It will now be up to the various police forces to progress disciplinary proceedings.
Rosemary Ainslie, from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: “It is incomprehensible that serving police officers could think it was right to share these kinds of grossly offensive messages with others.
“By these verdicts, the court has agreed that they were not just shocking or disturbing banter, but they amounted to criminal offences.
“Where there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to do so, the CPS will always prosecute these offences robustly.”