Met constable and former officer guilty of sending offensive messages

Published: 21 Sep 2022

A serving Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) constable and one former MPS officer were today (21 September) convicted of sending grossly offensive messages in a series of WhatsApp exchanges. It follows an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

Following a two-day trial held at Westminster Magistrates Court, former Police Constable (PC) Joel Borders, 45, was found guilty of five counts and PC Jonathan Cobban, aged 35, three counts of sending grossly offensive messages on a public communications network contrary to section 127 of the Communications Act 2003. They will be sentenced on Wednesday, 2 November.

Another MPS officer, PC William Neville, 34, was cleared of two counts of the same offence.

The court was told that the messages were shared on and off duty between April and August 2019 with other police colleagues who were part of a WhatsApp messaging group. They included racist and homophobic comments, derogatory remarks aimed at domestic abuse victims and people with disabilities.

Examples included ex-PC Borders and PC Cobban exchanging messages about using firearms, and Tasers, against people and animals. During this exchange ex-PC Borders suggested deployment of Taser on someone with Down’s syndrome.

IOPC Regional Director Sal Naseem said: “The messages sent by these police officers were inexcusable and particularly disturbing given the profession they represent. Social media cannot be a hiding place for these types of views.”

“Behaviour of this nature seriously undermines public confidence in policing. It is part of our role, and for police forces themselves, to ensure that it is rooted out and those responsible are held to account for their actions.”

“It is also another illustration of why we wrote to police chiefs last year highlighting our concerns about inappropriate use of social media and asking them to remind forces and officers of their obligations under the police Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Behaviour.“

The IOPC’s investigation began in April last year (2021) following a referral from the MPS after the messages were discovered on a mobile belonging to one of the WhatsApp group members. The mobile was seized by police in connection with a separate investigation.

On completion of our investigation in December we referred a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service, which authorised charges against the officers.

Our investigation also found a case to answer against all of them for gross misconduct, along with another three officers who were not criminally investigated. Those officers are from the MPS, Norfolk Constabulary and Civil Nuclear Constabulary.

All six officers are accused of breaching police standards of professional behaviour variously between March 2019 and October 2019 by allegedly sending discriminatory and/or inappropriate messages, and failing to challenge or report inappropriate comments made by others.

Now the criminal case has concluded it will be for the forces to progress disciplinary proceedings, and publicise the arrangements in line with the legal framework for such hearings.