Two serving Met Police officers and a former PC have dened sharing ‘grossly offensive’ messages with Sarah Everard’s murderer Wayne Couzens.
PC Jonathan Cobban, 35, PC William Neville, 34, and ex-officer Joel Borders were in the dock together at Westminster magistrates court this morning.
They were charged over WhatsApp messages on a group chat which were sent between April and August 2019.
The court heard they did not deny sending them but argue they were not ‘grossly offensive’.
Prosecutor Jocelyn Ledward said: ‘The evidence as currently served will largely be omitted, there is likely to be certain evidence from the officer in the case about the phrases used.
‘The fact that these officers undertook certain kinds of training is in the evidence, the content of the training course has been gathered as best as can be done.’
Senior District Judge Paul Goldspring asked: ‘So they should have known the content of the messages they were sending were grossly offensive – that’s the point of the evidence?’
Ms Ledward replied: ‘Exactly.’
Serving Metropolitan police officer Pc William Neville, 33, arrives at Westminster Magistrates’ Court
Serving Metropolitan police officer Jonathon Cobban arrives at Westminster Magistrates’ Court where he is charged with sharing ‘grossly offensive’ WhatsApp messages
A third man, former PC Joel Borders, 45, has also been charged with sharing the offensive messages between April and August 2019
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of (left to right) serving Metropolitan police officers Pc William Neville, and Jonathon Cobban, along with former police officer Joel Borders appearing in the dock at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, in London
Nicholas Yeo, defending, said: ‘The issues are, firstly whether or not the messages were grossly offensive and secondly whether the jokes were intended to be grossly offensive or whether they were not aware.’
Judge Goldspring said: ‘It’s a straight enough issue for the trial judge to determine whether the messages are grossly offensive.’
The three officers were initially afforded anonymity by the Crown Prosecution Service who claimed they were not being identified for ‘operational reasons’.
But following complaints from open justice campaigners, the CPS said it had been decided to put the names into the public domain.
The besuited defendants were granted unconditional bail ahead of a trial on July 28 and 29.
Judge Goldspring told them: ‘If you are not here I will continue in your absence and given that you’ve got something to say about the case… that’s not a good idea is it.’
Couzens, part of the Met’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection unit, is serving a whole life sentence for the kidnap, rape, and murder of Sarah Everard in March last year.
Wayne Couzens in Folkestone when he worked for Kent Police before the Metropolitan force
Couzens used Covid powers to conduct a fake arrest of marketing executive Ms Everard as she walked home from a friend’s house in March last year, in a crime that appalled the nation and undermined confidence in the police.
He is now serving a whole-life order in prison, meaning he will never be released from jail.
The Met has faced a wave of criticism over missed opportunities to expose Couzens as a sexual predator before he went on to murder Miss Everard.
It emerged the 48-year-old was known as ‘the rapist’ by staff at the Civil Nuclear Constabulary because he made female colleagues feel so uncomfortable.
He had been accused of indecent exposure in Kent in 2015 and in London in the days before Ms Everard’s murder, but was allowed to continue working.
An ongoing inquiry investigating how he was able to abduct, rape and murder Sarah Everard will look at whether any ‘red flags were missed’ earlier in his career.
Home Secretary Priti Patel published the terms of reference for the first phase of the Angiolini Inquiry, named after Dame Elish Angiolini QC who is leading it, which will consider the ‘systemic failures’ that allowed Miss Everard’s killer to be employed as a police officer.
Ms Patel said: ‘I am determined to understand the failings that enabled a serving officer to commit such heinous crimes – we owe an explanation to Sarah’s family and loved ones, and we need to do all in our power to prevent something like this from ever happening again.’