Police officers who sent grossly offensive messages in WhatsApp group with Sarah Everard killer sentenced

Police officers who sent grossly offensive messages in WhatsApp group with Sarah Everard killer sentenced
2 Nov Mark White
Mark White

By Mark White

Published: 02/11/2022

- 15:54

Updated: 02/11/2022

- 16:22

Jonathon Cobban, 35, and Joel Borders, 46, have each been sentenced to 12 weeks

A serving police officer and former colleague have been sentenced to three months in prison each for sharing grossly offensive text messages with Sarah Everard's killer Wayne Couzens.

Metropolitan police constable Johnathon Cobban, 35 and ex-colleague Joel Borders, 45, had shared the messages, including jokes about rape, two years before PC Couzens abducted, raped, and murdered Ms Everard.

Cobban and Borders were convicted in September of sending grossly offensive messages.

At their trial, the court heard how many of the messages were "racist, sexist and misogynistic."

Jonathon Cobban and Joel Borders
Jonathon Cobban and Joel Borders

The encrypted messaging group was discovered after detectives examined phones and other communications devices linked to Couzens, following his arrest for Sarah Everard's murder in March last year.

Messages on the group included what the officers claimed was "banter" about tasering children and the disabled.

Borders also discussed raping a female colleague in the group chat.

The judge rejected claims by the two defendants that the comments were examples of "dark humour".

District Judge Sarah Turnock said the fact the pair had chosen to share the messages in a small group, on an encrypted platform "strengthen the conclusion that the defendants knew that the disclosure of these comments would have caused gross offence to the public and the persons to whom these messages relate."

The judge said she believed the officers viewed the group chat as a "safe space" involving a small number of liked-minded individuals to share controversial and deeply offensive messages.

In mitigation, the defence argued that the offences should not carry a "high harm" sentencing decision, because the messages were not sent directly to individual victims and were never meant to be shared publicly.

The defence added that because of the high-profile nature of the murder of Sarah Everard, the case had attracted much greater attention than would normally be expected and that the officers had also lost their career, reputation, and livelihoods.

Undated handout file photo issued of Wayne Couzens
Undated handout file photo issued of Wayne Couzens
Metropolitan Police

The judge said that, although the defendants had never intended their messages to be shared with the wider public, the subsequent trial had resulted in wider dissemination of the comments.

She added that those groups and individuals discussed in the chat "will undoubtedly have been caused great offence by finding out that police officers found it appropriate to joke about them in this manner."

The court heard how Borders talked about tasering people with Down's syndrome, which the judge said "demonstrate hostility based on disability"

In another message the judge said fell into the high harm category, Joel Borders "joked" that "victims of domestic abuse involve women who don't listen."

Judge said Cobban also made racist comments and jokes about domestic violence victims

But she said the most serious comments related to a victim he was tasked with guarding in hospital after the person had attempted to self-harm.

The judge said the remark "demonstrates hostility, based on this person's presumed sexuality."

The judge accepted that the most significant mitigating feature is the fact the offences were committed three years ago, and the defendant do appear to have desisted from such comments since then.

In passing a custodial sentence of 12 weeks each, the judge said she did believe that the jail sentence should be suspended.

However, she agreed to bail the two defendants, pending an appeal against sentence by the defence.

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