Met Police officers given jail time for offensive WhatsApp messages but bailed

Image above: Westminster Magistrates Court

Judge: “I can honestly not think of more grossly offensive messages”

A serving Metropolitan Police officer and a former constable have been sentenced to 12 weeks each in prison for sending offensive racist and misogynistic messages in a WhatsApp group which included Wayne Couzens, the killer of Sarah Everard, but they have been granted bail while they organise an appeal.

PC Jonathon Cobban, 35, and former PC Joel Borders, 45, were part of a What’s App group called “Bottle and Stoppers”, in which they exchanged violent fantasies and described black people, women and Muslims in the most offensive terms.

Cobban and Borders both denied that their messages were “grossly offensive”, but in sentencing them at Westminster magistrates court, District Judge Sarah Turnock said what they had written had:

“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 their messages had “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”.

By talking in this way she said they were “normalising” those attitudes within the police force.

Another Met Police PC, William Neville, 34, was also charged with sending grossly offensive messages over a public communications network, but he was acquitted at trial.

Racist remarks focused on Hounslow

Cobban and Neville were attached to The Met’s West Area Command Unit and South West Command Unit respectively. Some of the messages referred specifically to Hounslow.

In one 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.

Another officer commented “Filthy Feltham”. Cobban wrote back:

“Walking through to hounslow central, it was like walking along a dulux colour code.

Borders said: “Yeah, all shades of brown?!”

Cobban replied: “Yep and I think I was one yellow. But he was lost cos he asked me for directions.

Image: Leader of Hounslow Council, Cllr Shantanu Rajawat

Leader of Hounslow Council, Cllr Shantanu Rajawat, had this to say when the two were sentenced:

“We welcome the news of the sentencing of the police officers in relation to grossly offensive WhatsApp messages being sent by them, including some referencing Hounslow and its communities.

“Racism, and misogyny have no place anywhere in a civilised society, let alone within the ranks of those sworn to protect and serve.

“Misconduct by police officers is completely unacceptable.”

Violent fantasies

In one message in the group chat Cobban said he was “hoping to get into a fight” to prove himself.

“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 claimed the messages in the WhatsApp group had been “blown out of proportion.” Cobban said his messages were “obviously sarcastic”.

Mysogenistic remarks

Borders also wrote about a female colleague:

“Lead me on then get me locked up when I rape and beat her! Sneaky b*tch.”

In June 21, 2019, an unnamed officer in the group wrote:

“Mate they aren’t gonna ditch you with your skill set unless you finger a DV victim.”

Cobban had 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”.

Homophobic remarks

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.

Ableist remarks

In the exchange about wanting to shoot people and taser them Borders wrote:

“And a couple of downys?”, which the court understood to be a reference to people with Downs Syndrome.

The accused described their messages as just “banter” and “dark humour”, but the judge said they were “sickening”.

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.”

Officers “embarrased” and “disgusted” with themselves

Cobban and Borders both expressed regret. Cobban said the messages “made him feel sick and he was utterly ashamed and embarrassed”.

Borders said he was “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.”

He told the probation service:

“Everyone’s job is made harder and this makes me feel like crap.”

Their lawyer Nicholas Yeo offered in mitigation the view that the two men were suffering from “cancel culture” and had suffered more because of their case’s link to Wayne 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.”

Borders and Cobban 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; Cobban was cleared of two and found guilty of three charges.

Morale low in the Metropolitan Police

At a public meeting in Chiswick in October, the Metropolitan Police Borough Commander for West London, Chief Superintendent Sean Wilson, spoke about the low morale in the Met following Sarah Everard’s murder by a Metropolitan Police officer.

It had “rotted morale across the force” he said, and there was much work to do to bring back the public’s trust in the force.

READ ALSO: West London Borough Commander talks of low morale in Met Police

There have been a string of court cases involving Metropolitan Police officers charged with a range of offences and in June the policing inspectorate has made the unprecedented decision to place the Metropolitan police into “special measures” following the uncovering of a litany of new “systemic” failings in fighting crime and serving victims.

READ ALSO: Another west London police officer charged with sexual misconduct as Met put into “special measures”

Leader of Hounslow Council, Cllr Shantanu Rajawat said the Council was now:

“engaging with senior police officers to understand the steps being taken to root out this sort of toxic culture from within police ranks.”

He added:

“I also feel sure that the vast majority of police officers in Hounslow are hard-working, decent people who will be deeply offended by the conduct of these officers.

“We will continue to strive to work towards an ever-safer borough for all.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: West London borough police commander sacked for gross misconduct

See also: Met Police to monitor officers’ phones and emails for ‘alarming’ language

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