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Officer from 'Bottles and Stoppers' chat wants to appeal dismissal

CNC officer PC Matthew Forster was dismissed without notice in December for sending discriminatory messages in a WhatsApp group of which Wayne Couzens was also a member.

One of the officers found guilty of misconduct in relation to discriminatory messages sent within a WhatsApp group connected to Wayne Couzens has indicated that he wants to appeal the finding.

Former Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) officer PC Matthew Forster was dismissed in December alongside ex-Met PC Gary Bailey, after allegations of gross misconduct had been found proven by an independently chaired disciplinary panel.

The CNC has confirmed that Mr Forster has now submitted his grounds for appeal, with the force currently compiling its response ahead of the end of March deadline.

The independent chair will then review the legal justifications from both parties and decide whether the matter will proceed to an appeal hearing.

Former Met PCs Joel Borders, Jonathon Cobban, and William Neville would have been dismissed had they still been serving, as would ex-Norfolk Constabulary PC Daniel Comfort.

All six officers were found to have been part of a ‘Bottles and Stoppers' WhatsApp group which sent 6,192 messages between February 13 and November 27, 2019.

Borders and Cobban were given three-month custodial sentences in November in relation to some of the messages sent in this chat, though since have been bailed pending appeal.

Police Oracle has contacted the CPS for an update on those proceedings.

PC Neville was cleared of criminal charges.

Wayne Couzens was also a member of this WhatsApp group, and after receiving a 19-month sentence earlier today for three counts of indecent exposure, the IOPC has released a report on its investigation into the other six officers.

The report revealed 'potentially inappropriate messages' relating to various protected characteristics: approximately 73 related to race, 38 related to women, and 28 related to violence.

Moreover, around 19 referenced rape, sexual offences and victims of crime, while there were also messages relating to sexual orientation and gender reassignment and disability.

Examples of each were detailed in the report, including one sent by fomer PC Forster adjudged to relate to rape, sexual offences and victims of crime.

In response to a message regarding consent, he wrote: "They’ve only got to say yes once."

Forster has since called this message a 'bad joke' and admitted he could not defend it.

In relation to a comment about women not being suitable to be police officers, PC Forster wrote: "She does look like she’d make a great sandwich."

The IOPC found that PC Forster's correspondence with the group accounted for 1.2% of the total messages, which it said supports his account that he wasn't an active member of the group.

When interviewed under caution, PCs Borders, Cobban and Mr Neville used terms such as 'dark humour', 'shock humour' and 'controversial humour' to describe some of their messages.

PC Borders disputed that 'any of these are grossly offensive' and said they didn't meet the standard required of a criminal offence.

PC Cobban - who also denied any criminal wrongdoing - said the comments were made in a private WhatsApp group between friends and weren't intended to offend.

He also said, in relation to two of his messages which referenced the Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS), that he 'did not consider WhatsApp to be a public communication platform' and did not believe the DPS was monitoring the group.

PCs Bailey, Comfort and Forster all expressed regret for the messages in their misconduct interviews, and admitted they should have challenged the comments made by the other officers in the group.

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