An off-duty police officer convicted of attacking a woman as she walked home alone was given a curfew and ordered to pay her £500, prompting criticism from campaigners that he avoided prison and the “system fails women and protects men”.
PC Oliver Banfield, 25, a probationary officer with West Midlands police, grabbed Emma Homer as she walked home in July last year and tried to tackle her to the ground.
The court heard that Banfield used techniques taught during police training to grab Homer by the neck and try to pull her to the ground as she screamed.
Homer, 36, managed to flee from the scene in Bidford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, as Banfield called her a “fucking slag”, the Mirror reported.
Channel 4 News posted footage of the attack on Twitter.
Banfield admitted a charge of assault by beating and was sentenced at Leicester magistrates court on Friday to a 14-week curfew, banning him from leaving his house between 7pm and 7am.Advertisement
He was ordered to pay his victim £500 compensation and court costs totalling £180.
Banfield’s lawyer argued against a sentence of community service, saying it would be difficult for him to work with criminals.
Banfield has been suspended from his post with West Midlands police and faces allegations of gross misconduct.
Responding to the sentence, Labour MP Harriet Harman said: “[It] must have been terrifying for her but no prison sentence. This is proof, if any needed, that [the] system fails women and protects men.”
Feminist author and activist Caroline Criado Perez also expressed anger that Banfield has avoided a custodial sentence: “This kind of thing is what needs to be addressed … Women don’t report because we know there is no fucking point.”
Homer said she felt Banfield had been “fulfilling a violent cop movie fantasy”. She said: “I often ask myself if the impact of the attack would have been so severe if my assailant was not a police officer. 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 out he was a police officer shook my belief system to its core.”
She said her two children were now “wary and unnecessarily anxious” around police. “The effect on my children when they found out my assailant was a police officer was incredibly sad. It’s unfathomable to them that a person whose job is to serve and protect would attack and hurt their family.”
She also said she had suffered from anxiety, stress, panic attacks and insomnia, and was undergoing counselling following the assault.
The court was told Banfield had been on a night out and was drunk at the time of the attack.
The West Midlands police 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.”
This article first appear in The Guardian