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A serving London metropolitan officer and his former police colleague have been warned that they could face time behind bars after being convicted on Wednesday of sending “racist” and “misogynistic” messages in a WhatsApp group that included Sarah Everard’s killer, according to reports.
Jonathon Cobban, a Metropolitan Police officer, and former police constable, Joel Borders, were found guilty on Wednesday of the offense of sending of a grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing message on a public electronic communications network, The Guardian reported.
A third officer, police constable William Neville, who had been in the same WhatsApp group with Everard’s convicted murderer, Wayne Couzens, was found not guilty of the same offense and has been cleared of any wrongdoing.
In September 2021, Couzens, a former Met police officer, was sentenced to life in prison for falsely arresting 33-year-old Everard that March while she was on the way home from a friend’s house, raping her and strangling her to death before burning the woman’s body.
Announcing the outcome of the trial at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, Judge Sarah Turnock said the WhatsApp group – named “Bottle and Stoppers” – was considered by the defendants “as a safe space, involving a few like-minded individuals, in which they had free rein to share controversial and deeply offensive messages without fear of retribution.”
“Social media cannot be a hiding place for these types of views,” Sal Naseem, regional director of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), told the BBC after the ruling. “Behaviour of this nature seriously undermines public confidence in policing.”
Borders and Cobban exchanged messages through the chat in 2019 that they described themselves as “banter,” including supposed jokes about firearms and tasering children, cats, dogs and people with Down’s Syndrome and referred to the London Borough of Hounslow as a “Somali sh—hole,” The Evening Standard reported.
Turnock condemned the remarks as “abhorrent,” saying Borders “demonstrates an ableist attitude by then adding a disabled person to Cobban’s disgusting list of victims.”
On April 25 2019, Borders sent a message to the WhatsApp group joking about raping a female police colleague, whom he described as a “sneaky b—-.” The judge said such a remark was “misogynistic and aggressive in its nature and is a clear example of victim blaming.”
“The behaviour of these officers is despicable, and I condemn them for sending such grossly offensive and repulsive messages. It is staggering that they regard this language as defensible,” Metropolitan Police Commander Jon Savell said in a statement, according to The Evening Standard. “We expect our officers to have the highest standards of conduct. We are determined to rid this organisation of those who corrupt its integrity and are increasing our efforts to do that more quickly. As a result, we may well see more cases emerging, as we leave no stone unturned in tackling offensive behaviour.”
A sentencing hearing for Cobban and Borders is scheduled for Nov. 2.