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Police officer avoids jail after attacking woman

PC Oliver Banfield, who assaulted a woman in a "terrifying" drunken attack, has been given a curfew and a fine, rightly prompting criticism that he was not jailed.

Once again it is harrowing but unsurprising that my second article for Outlaw News concerns police violence towards women. This time West Midlands Police officer, PC Oliver Banfield, has admitted to assault by beating on 37-year-old mother-of-two, Emma Homer, as she walked home on a night in July 2020.

Shockingly, Banfield was let off with a suspension from ‘public-facing duties’, a 14-week curfew, and a measly £500 fine (plus costs) by Leicester Crown Court on Friday 19th March.

What’s even more shocking is the fact that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had initially decided not to charge the officer in September, but changed its mind following intervention from the Women’s Justice Centre. Public interest?

Despite West Midlands District Crown Prosecutor Rachel Adams assuring the public that “the CPS takes violence against women and girls extremely seriously and will continue to robustly prosecute offences arising from this sort of behaviour,” their initial reluctance to prosecute the officer suggests that the CPS’s words are not aligned with their actions.

The court’s ruling sets a dangerous precedent, reinforcing the idea that the repercussions for violence against women are minimal, especially if you’re a police officer.

As Labour MP, Harriet Harman, tweeted "This is proof... that the system fails women and protects men".

Meanwhile, the victim has suffered from "anxiety, insomnia and stress", which has been "compounded by the slow response from Warwickshire Police".

In a victim impact statement, Emma said that despite her reporting the assault within hours, 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".

Warwickshire Police has since personally apologised to Emma and admitted that its "initial response to the report of the assault was not as swift as it should have been".

After an assault in which the victim was “verbally abused with misogynistic slang, grabbed by the neck, and forced to the floor”, the police’s lethargic and reluctant response is completely unacceptable. The victim said that the ordeal was “terrifying, but to then find that he was a police officer shook my belief system to its core.” Her belief that PC Banfield was “fulfilling a violent cop movie fantasy” reinforces the common image of the police as egotistical, power-hungry, and eager to abuse their authority over others.

As with the Sarah Everard case, and many other instances of police brutality highlighted over the last year, we are once again left with the question: are the police working for the protection of the public or the gratification of their own egos?

PC Banfield’s misconduct throws even more concern over the government’s recent plans for plainclothes officers to patrol clubs and bars as women feel increasingly unsafe around and distrustful of the police. With the public feeling ever more paranoid rather than protected by the police, is it time to look at system reform within the UK?

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