Joel Borders was given a jail sentence but granted bail ahead of an appeal
A former police officer from Preston was given a 12 week jail sentence after sharing racist, homophobic, misogynistic and ableist messages in a WhatsApp group with Wayne Couzens before he murdered Sarah Everard.
Joel Borders has not been sent to prison yet though as a judge granted bail to him and co-defendant PC Jonathan Cobban ahead of an appeal. Borders, 46, and Cobban, 35, were members of a chat called “Bottle and Stoppers” on the encrypted platform with Couzens, 49.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard how they joked about raping a female colleague, talked about tasering children and people with disabilities, and displayed racist views in the group in 2019. The messages were discovered after then serving Met officer Couzens kidnapped, raped and strangled to death 33-year-old marketing executive Ms Everard in March last year.
Cobban was found guilty of three counts of sending grossly offensive messages on a public communications network, while Borders was convicted of five charges after a Westminster Magistrates’ Court trial. District Judge Sarah Turnock jailed Cobban and Borders for 12 weeks on Wednesday, saying she could not think of “more grossly offensive messages”, but bailed the pair ahead of an appeal against their convictions at the High Court.
“They encapsulated the full range of prejudiced views, racism, misogyny, ableism and homophobia,” the judge said. “There was no intention on the part of the defendants to cause any harm to the persons to whom these messages relate or the minor groups of society who are undoubtedly effected by these messages,” she continued. “The persons to whom these messages relate will undoubtedly been caused great distress by knowing police officers find it funny to joke about them in such a deeply offensive manner.”
The judge said the messages “represent jokes specifically targeted or about people or groups as police officers “they had sworn an oath to protect”. “Significant harm has undoubtedly been caused to public confidence in policing as a result of these offences.”
In the group chat, which included seven new Met Police officers, including Couzens, Cobban joked about sexually abusing domestic violence survivors who he said “love it… that’s why they are repeat victims more often than not”. The judge said she could not “think of a worse comment for a police officer to say” and criticised Cobban calling a victim of self-harming he was guarding in hospital a “fag”.
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”, a term the prosecution said referred to people with Down’s syndrome, to the list.
In their chat, Feltham, in west London, was referred to as “filthy” and Hounslow, also in West London, as a “Somali shithole”. On April 25 2019, Borders joked about a female colleague, who he referred to as a “sneaky bitch”, “lead(ing) him on” and “get(ting)” him jailed for raping and beating her.
The officers described the messages as “banter” and dismissed many of the comments as examples of “dark humour”. But the judge rejected this account, finding that at the very least the extensive police training they had each received meant they would have been aware of the public reaction to their messages. She said Cobban and Borders had shown no “genuine remorse” but were “indignant” to find themselves before the court and felt they were being “scapegoated”.
“This humour was covert and done in a covert way, to exchange banter in a safe space and they felt like they had free rein to share their views without fear of retribution,” she said. “It is precisely the covert nature of these comments which makes the prejudice so difficult to address within the police force. It is the contrast between the exemplary conduct of these defendants and the covert views expressed in these messages which causes me such concern.”
Nicholas Yeo, defending, said that along with losing their jobs, Borders and Cobban would be victims of “cancel culture” because their names have “become toxic”. “If they had committed robbery or GBH they would find it easier to find a job than being linked to the furore of Mr Couzens,” he said. “They were in no better position than anyone else to know what he would go on and do.”
PC William Neville, 34, who was also a member of the WhatsApp chat, was cleared of two counts of sending grossly offensive messages in September, while the police watchdog previously said all six officers who were in the group with Couzens are accused of breaching police standards of professional behaviour.
Regional Director for the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), Sal Naseem, said on Wednesday: “Social media cannot be a hiding place for such views and it’s important that officers understand that it doesn’t matter whether they are expressed on a public platform or as part of a private messaging group.
“Along with police forces themselves we will continue to ensure that this type of behaviour is rooted out and those responsible are held to account for their actions.”
- 16:55, 2 NOV 2022