Serving male police officer avoids jail after admitting assault of woman

19 March 2021, 17:58 | Updated: 19 March 2021, 21:38

Pc Oliver Banfield was spared jail after admitting a charge of assault
Pc Oliver Banfield was spared jail after admitting a charge of assault. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A male police officer has avoided a prison sentence after admitting to the drunken assault of a woman by beating, sparking criticism from a leading female MP.

Pc Oliver Banfield, 25, who serves with West Midlands Police (WMP) but is currently suspended, admitted a charge of assault by beating at an earlier hearing in January.

On Friday, the attacker was handed a curfew, and ordered to pay compensation and costs at Leicester Magistrates' Court.

Labour's Harriet Harman condemned the ruling, writing on Twitter: "Policeman attacks woman walking home alone after dark.

"Must have been terrifying for her but no prison sentence. He continues in post. @WMPolice must review.

"This is proof, if any needed, that system fails women and protects men."

The constabulary said Banfield was "removed from public-facing duties after the assault" while a criminal investigation into the attack in Bidford-on-Avon in July last year was carried out by Warwickshire Police.

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WMP said that following the end of the criminal probe, Banfield was suspended pending the outcome of a disciplinary process into an allegation of gross misconduct against the officer.

In a statement, Deputy Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine said: "Oliver Banfield was removed from public-facing police duties after the assault and while the investigation by Warwickshire Police was being carried out.

"To protect the criminal case we've not been able to carry out our own misconduct investigation until its conclusion.

"Now sentencing has taken place, our investigation will be carried out and Pc Banfield faces allegations of gross misconduct and is currently suspended.

"We understand the strength of feeling surrounding the desperately sad death of Sarah Everard and concerns on the issue of women's safety but it would not be appropriate for us to comment further at this stage.

"Our role is to protect the public, who should be able to trust us. We therefore hold all our officers to the highest standards and we will take appropriate action against anyone whose actions fall below what is expected."

Banfield was given a 14-week curfew banning him from leaving his house between 7pm and 7am, and must pay £500 compensation together with a £95 victim surcharge and £85 court costs.

Meanwhile, the 37-year-old victim, Emma Homer, hit out at Warwickshire Police's initial handling of her complaint after she was attacked by a "drunk" Banfield while walking home at about 1am on July 26 2020.

She said that despite reporting the assault within hours of it happening, it took "more than 30 hours for an officer to take a telephone statement", "nine days for an officer to come and see her" and "eight weeks for an officer to conduct house-to-house enquiries".

In a victim impact statement issued through a relative, Mrs Homer said the effects of the assault had left her with "anxiety, insomnia and stress" which had been "compounded by the slow response from Warwickshire Police".

The force has since personally apologised to Mrs Homer stating its "initial response to the report of the assault was not as swift as it should have been".

Mrs Homer added that when the Warwickshire force presented a case file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in September 2020, it was decided not to charge Banfield.

However, aided by the Women's Justice Centre, Mrs Homer had the CPS's decision reviewed and the CPS charged Banfield in December 2020.

He admitted assault by beating in court at Leamington Spa in January this year.

Describing the assault, Mrs Homer said: "I often ask myself if the impact of the attack would have been so severe if my assailant was not a police officer.

"During the assault as I struggled to get to safety, I was sure this drunk man was fulfilling a violent cop movie fantasy.

"To be verbally abused with misogynistic slang, grabbed by the neck, and forced to the floor on a dark road by a drunk man a foot taller than me is terrifying, but to then find that he was a police officer shook my belief system to its core."

She said: "I considered myself a confident, relaxed, and independent wife and mother but since the attack I live with constant anxiety.

"I have changed simple things like my route home, and I have had to ask my family not to discuss the case as it sends me into a panic attack - indeed whenever the subject is brought up I feel a rush of anxiety and a tightening at my throat."