Met officers guilty of sexist and racist chat with Wayne Couzens

Met officers guilty of sexist and racist chat with Wayne Couzens

Metropolitan Police officer and ex-PC are found guilty of swapping grossly offensive misogynistic and racist messages in WhatsApp group with Sarah Everard’s killer Wayne Couzens

  • Met officers Jonathon Cobban and Joel Borders found guilty in court today
  • Cobban, 35 is a serving officer and Borders, 45, is a former PC for the Met Police
  • They ‘joked’ with Sarah Everard’s killer Wayne Couzens about raping colleagues

Two Metropolitan Police officers have today been found guilty of sending grossly offensive misogynistic and racist messages in a WhatsApp group with Sarah Everard’s killer.

Serving Met officer Jonathon Cobban, 35, and former PC Joel Borders, 45, ‘joked’ about raping colleagues with killer Wayne Couzens.

Cobban and Borders were warned by a judge that they could face prison time today at the City of London Magistrates’ Court.

PC William Neville, 33, was cleared of sharing such material by the court.

A judge has branded messages sent by police officers in a WhatsApp group with Sarah Everard’s killer, including jokes about using weapons against disabled people, ‘sickening’ and ‘disgusting’.

Met Constables William Neville, 34, and Jonathon Cobban, 35, and former PC Joel Borders, 45, were members of the chat called ‘Bottle and Stoppers’ along with Wayne Couzens.

In comments on April 5 2019, Cobban and Borders swapped comments about tasering children, animals and a what the prosecution argued was people with Down’s syndrome, that Border’s referred to using an offensive term.

Serving Met officer Jonathon Cobban (pictured), 35, and former PC Joel Borders, 45 ‘joked’ about raping colleagues with killer Wayne Couzens Pictured: Jonathon Cobban attends Westminster Magistrates’ Court on July 29

Met Constables William Neville, 34, and Jonathon Cobban, 35, and former PC Joel Borders, 45, were members of the chat called ‘Bottle and Stoppers’ along with Wayne Couzens. Pictured: Former Met Police officer Joel Borders arriving at court, London on July 28

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of (left to right) serving Metropolitan police officers PC William Neville (who was not convicted), and Jonathon Cobban, along with former police officer Joel Borders appearing in the dock at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, in London on March 16

At the start of delivering a judgment today, District Judge Sarah Turnock said it was ‘abhorrent’ that Borders ‘demonstrates an ablest attitude by then adding a disabled person to Cobban’s disgusting list of victims.’

‘I can honestly say that I consider it to be sickening to think of a police officer joking about using firearms in this way,’ she added.

Couzens, a former parliamentary and diplomatic protection officer, was given a full life term last year for the kidnap, 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 the messages, the officers discuss ‘fingering DV [domestic violence] victims’ and raping and beating a colleague Borders was due to begin training with.

Cobban and Borders each denied five counts of sending by public communication network an offensive matter.

Borders was convicted of all charges while Cobban was found guilty of three of the counts but cleared of the remaining two.

Wayne Couzens (pictured), a former parliamentary and diplomatic protection officer, was given a full life term last year for the kidnap, rape and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard

Sarah Everard (pictured), 33, was raped and killed by serving Met officer Wayne Couzens as she walked home in south London on March 3 last year

Neville, of Weybridge, Surrey, denied and was cleared of two identical charges.

District Judge Sarah Turnock adjourned sentence until 2 November, telling Borders and Cobban: ‘You have been found guilty of these offences.

‘And these offences make no mistake about it are extremely serious.

‘You both face a very real prospect, in my opinion, of going to prison.’

Edward Brown, prosecuting, earlier said: ‘The defendants were part of a WhatsApp group with the title ‘Bottle and Stoppers/Atkin’s puppets’ along with four other officers.

‘It should be noted that from time to time the correspondents would message about 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 out’ or challenged any of their co-defendants on receipt of what are said, by the prosecution, to be the offensive messages.

‘The prosecution case is that, at the time, each of the defendants was a serving police officer, training to, and employed to, protect and support the citizens of a very diverse city.

‘There were…not isolated incidents to which the co-correspondent did not somehow feel able to make objection.

‘Each defendant actively participated and chose to remain in the group.’

Referring specifically to Borders’ message about raping and beating a female colleague with whom he was about to train, Brown said: ‘The message is threatening and aggressive in its nature, we submit. It is victim-blaming, derogatory to victims of rape and sexual violence and to women generally, such as the words ‘sneaky bitch’.’

Then, referring to Cobban and Neville’s exchange about restraining a young girl, Brown said: ‘This, by Neville (but then supported in its sentiments by Cobban) implied to any right-minded observer that Neville enjoyed the need, whilst on duty, physically to restrain a very vulnerable and disturbed 15-year-old girl because he got pleasure from, or at least drew upon his experience of…with, I quote, a ‘struggle snuggle’, and we submit that is acting out a rape-fantasy or other non-consensual physical touching.’

During 2017, Cobban had volunteered as the Civil Nuclear Constabulary’s Race and Diversity Custodian, the court heard.

Mr Brown said the role required specialist knowledge and understanding.

Cobban was registered within an equalities consultative support network to provide social, moral and professional support to employees with protected characteristics.

All three men transferred to the Metropolitan Police Service in February 2019.

Giving evidence Borders said: ‘I was saying she’s the sort of person who would lead you on, sleep with you, then make a false allegation against you.

‘So really the rape and beat should have been in quotations, but it’s text isn’t it – it’s never grammatically correct.

‘This has totally been blown out of proportion.’

He continued: ‘I know it’s just me saying it, but I was well thought of in the job.

‘You can ask anyone – people actively wanted to be paired with me. I was good at the job.

‘I laugh at things that maybe I shouldn’t laugh at, but when you’re telling a joke you’re not laughing at the subject of the joke; you’re laughing at the joke.’

Cobban had denied his messages could be grossly offensive and said they were examples of a dark sense of humour which helped him cope with his job.

He said: ‘I had no reasonable expectation whatsoever that these messages would or could be read by anyone else.

‘I meant for these messages to be taken as ‘humorous banter and nothing more.

‘They were nothing more than a thoughtless, dark sense of humour.

‘None of those messages were sent with any malice.

‘Those aren’t the opinions I held then, before then and they certainly aren’t the opinions I hold now.’

Cobban was asked specifically about an exchange in which he and Neville laugh about ‘[pinning] a 15-year-old girl going mental to the floor’.

Neville writes: ‘I knew all the struggle snuggles would come in useful at some point.’

Cobban responds: ‘Haha struggle snuggles are always useful…good skills!’

Mr Brown suggested to Cobban that ‘struggle snuggle’ referred to ‘something intimate when restraining a young, 15-year-old girl’.

Cobban claimed it was a ‘slang term for a Home Office approved restraint technique’.

He said: ‘It was a technique that I’ve been taught in the Metropolitan Police Service.

‘It’s very similar to a term used – ‘met bundle’.

‘A met bundle is a multiple officer restraining technique where multiple officers restrain a person who perhaps has extreme strength and the term ‘struggle snuggle’ is just a single officer restraining someone, if that makes sense.

‘Given the context I’ve just explained to the court, I don’t see it as being offensive in any way.’

Neville accepted he had received extensive training on diversity and equality and dealing with vulnerable victims, but denied he had this in mind when sending the messages.

He told the court: ‘We’ve spent more time looking at the Code of Ethics in this court room than I have in my whole career.’

Cobban and Borders were warned by a judge that they could face prison time today at the City of London Magistrates’ Court (pictured)

On 9 August 2019, Neville and Cobban discussed the ‘landmarks’ on their ‘patch’.

When Cobban says ‘London’s biggest mosque’ is on his patch, Neville responded: ‘Haha! That’s useful if you need to execute a warrant, you’ll know where they are.’

Neville confirmed he was referring to a warrant under the Terrorist Act, but denied that he had implied all Muslims were terrorists.

He said: ‘For me, with the dark sense of humour that’s been referred to before, I’m not saying every Muslim is a terrorist.

‘Would I say it out loud? Depending on the person I was saying it to, for sure, because to some people it could be offensive.

‘I’d just like to say that a close friend, an almost family member, of ours is a Muslim.

‘I’ve made this reference and said this joke and they’ve laughed because they’ve understood the humour of myself and my family, the background I’ve had and my childhood.

‘It’s a joke.’

‘It’s dark humour, it’s satire. You can text something without meaning it in literal terms.

‘It’s sent in a nano-second.

‘When you’re joking, when you’re bantering with your mates, you’re riffing off one another and it’s snap humour that comes out, very quick fire.

Cobban, of Didcot, Oxfordshire, and Borders, of Preston, Lancs, each denied five counts of sending by public communication network an offensive matter… Borders was convicted of all charges while Cobban was convicted of three counts and cleared of two others.

Neville, of Weybridge, Surrey, denied and was cleared two identical charges.

Sentencing was adjourned until 2 November at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

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