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‘Bottles and Stoppers’ chat group served with dismissal notices

All the officers involved had previously worked for CNC but had transferred to the MPS when the messages were sent

Six serving and former officers from the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) the Met and Norfolk Constabulary who were part of a ‘Bottles and Stoppers’ WhatsApp chat group have had dismissal rulings against them as part of a gross misconduct hearting.

The outcomes follow an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) into allegations of discriminatory and inappropriate messages sent by PCs from three different forces while they were serving with the Met.

All were accused of sending inappropriate and/or offensive messages, being part of a WhatsApp group that was being used to exchange them, and also failing to report or challenge the messages they received.

At the end of a hearing organised by the MPS, an independently chaired disciplinary panel found the cases proven against MPS PC Gary Bailey and Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) PC Matthew Forster; former MPS PCs Joel Borders, Jonathon Cobban, and William Neville; and former Norfolk Constabulary PC Daniel Comfort.

PCs Bailey and Forster were dismissed without notice and the panel ruled that the four former officers would have been dismissed had they still been serving. All of them apart from PC Forster, who is subject to different regulations, will be added to the College of Policing barred list.

The IOPC analysed more than 6,000 messages which included racist and homophobic comments, and derogatory remarks aimed at domestic abuse victims, people with disabilities, and women. 

IOPC Regional Director Sal Naseem said: “The views expressed by these officers do not belong in a civilised society and as we have said before, social media cannot be a hiding place for them whether on a public platform or as part of a private group.”

The IOPC’s investigation began following an initial conduct referral from the MPS in April last year (2021). Additional referrals were made by Norfolk Constabulary and CNC in July and August 2021.

The ‘Bottles and Stoppers’ chat group, as it was called, dated back to February 2019. All the officers involved had previously worked for CNC but had transferred to the MPS when the messages were sent.

On conclusion of the IOPC’s investigation last December, it found a case to answer for gross misconduct for all six officers. A file of evidence was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service which led to former PCs Borders and Cobban being convicted of sending grossly offensive messages under the Communications Act (2003). They were given 12-week custodial sentences last month (November) but bailed pending an appeal.

The IOPC said it is now preparing to publish its investigation report.

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