Former Preston policeman hits out at prosecutors as he defends his chat messages to Sarah Everard’s killer Wayne Couzens

A former policeman from Preston has accused prosecutors of "trying to criminalise innocent police officers" over allegedly sexist, racist and ableist "jokes" they made in a WhatsApp chat with Sarah Everard's killer.

Former Pc Joel Borders, 45, is on trial at Westminster Magistrates' Court along with serving Metropolitan Police constables Jonathon Cobban, 35, and William Neville, 34, charged with sending "grossly offensive" messages to the group in 2019.

All three deny charges relating to improper use of a public electronic communications network between April 5 and August 9 2019.

Their WhatsApp chat, called "Bottle and Stoppers", comprised seven officers who had transferred from the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) to the Met.

Former Metropolitan Police officer Joel Borders arriving at Westminster Magistrates' Court, London, where he is charged with sharing "grossly offensive" WhatsApp messages with Sarah Everard murderer Wayne Couzens. Picture date: Thursday July 28, 2022.

It is known that messages from the chat were found on Wayne Couzens' phone during investigations into the murder of Ms Everard last year, though the court has not made direct reference to this due to other ongoing hearings.

Borders, who described himself as an "exemplary" officer after having his message joking about raping a female colleague read to the court, worked for the CNC from March 30 2014, and transferred to the Met on February 11 2019.

He left the force on December 9 2020 for unrelated reasons and before he was told about Couzens or that he was being investigated for misconduct in August 2021.

In messages previously read to the court, Borders, from Preston, Lancashire, said: "I can't wait to get on the guns so I can shoot some c*** in the face", and suggested tasering people with Down's Syndrome.

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, charged with sharing "grossly offensive" WhatsApp messages with Sarah Everard murderer Wayne Couzens.

Speaking about a female colleague, he also said she would "lead me on then get me locked up when I rape and beat her! Sneaky bitch".

During cross-examination by his lawyer, Nicholas Yeo, on Friday, Borders told the court that he was "well thought-of on the job", and his "joke" messages had been "blown out of proportion".

"I was an exemplary officer," he said. "I always turned up to work early, I always dressed smart, made sure my boots were clean.

"My image was perfect and I behaved perfectly with people. I know that's me saying this, but I was well thought-of on the job."

Borders admitted that he was "naive" when he first joined the Met in February 2019, but handling "delicate matters" changed his sense of humour.

He said his jokes were not intended to offend the people they were about, and gave the example of a joke he made about his mother, who has dementia, after she suffered a fall and broke her hip a few months ago.

He said he made his "exhausted" 75-year-old father laugh by telling him not to visit her in hospital if he was too tired because "she won't remember".

"You might say that's offensive to people with dementia, but it made my dad laugh, and all of a sudden his mood changed - his whole attitude changed," he said.

During a later, heated exchange with prosecutor Jocelyn Ledward, Borders said: "You are trying to criminalise innocent police officers."

Indicating his former colleagues in the dock, he said: "Those officers in there are probably going to lose their jobs, just because you take exception to certain jokes."

Cobban, from Didcot, Oxfordshire, bowed his head and fixed his gaze at the ground as these comments were made, before taking to the witness box himself.

In messages previously heard by the court, Cobban described a hospital patient he was dealing with as an "attention-seeking, self-harming fag", and Hounslow, a diverse area of west London, as a "Somali shithole".

Following this second comment, he added: "There goes pussy patrol... more like FGM (female genital mutilation) patrol."

Speaking on Friday, Cobban said the "pussy patrol" joke took inspiration from Channel 4 comedy The Inbetweeners, and his FGM comment was not related to the ethnic diversity of the area.

Cobban said that, like many emergency services workers, he had "developed a dark sense of humour" as a "coping mechanism" and described the messages as "banter between mates".

Responding to jokes about police performing sex acts on domestic violence victims, Cobban also wrote in the group chat: "That's alright, DV victims love it... that's why they are repeat victims more often than not."

The Pc described this comment as "quite obviously sarcastic" and a way of "venting frustrations after attending domestic abuse calls where callers would not co-operate with police once they arrived".

The officer said that in these cases "more often than not the allegations are false".

Cobban said: "Since then, I have been to many domestics and some of them are heart-breaking. I would not find that joke funny now."

Asked by Mr Yeo whether he thought the messages would be read by people outside the group chat, he said: "Not for one second.

"As far as I was concerned these messages were on a private, encoded WhatsApp group and they would never be read by anyone outside the group."

Neville, of Weybridge, Surrey, watched from the dock, and is due to give evidence later on Friday.

On Thursday, Neville was accused of "acting out a rape fantasy" by prosecutor Edward Brown QC after he described the time he "pinned a 15-year-old girl going mental on the floor" as deploying a "struggle snuggle".

Please refrain from comment on a ongoing trial as any remarks you publish online may be held in contempt of court, and you may be prosecuted.

The trial continues.