PC’s curfew sentence for ‘terrifying’ attack on woman criticised

4 weeks ago
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Emma Homer

Emma Homer

A probationary police officer who assaulted a woman in a “terrifying” attack has been given a curfew, prompting criticism he was not jailed.

West Midlands Police PC Oliver Banfield grabbed and manhandled Emma Homer last July while drunk. He has been suspended and faces disciplinary action.

The investigating force has apologised for delays in the prosecution.

Labour MP Harriet Harman wrote on Twitter: “Must have been terrifying for her… but no prison sentence.”

Ms Homer said the attack had left her with “anxiety, insomnia and stress” and her family said they were “disappointed” with 25-year-old Banfield’s sentence, a night-time curfew.

During the sentencing hearing at Leicester Magistrates’ Court, CCTV was shown in which Banfield could be seen shouting at Ms Homer.

He is seen grabbing her and forcing her to the floor during the assault in the early hours of 26 July in Bidford-on-Avon, Warwickshire.

In her victim personal statement which was read out in court, she said she thought he was “fulfilling a violent cop movie fantasy”.

Oliver Banfield leaving court

Sally Homer

Describing the assault, Ms Homer, 37, 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.”

‘Not really a punishment’

Warwickshire Police said it had personally apologised to Ms Homer for delays in the investigation.

Initially the CPS said there was not enough evidence to bring a prosecution. But after Ms Homer appealed with the support of the Centre for Women’s Justice, further inquiries were made and Banfield was charged.

Warwickshire’s Chief Superintendent Ben Smith said the force recognised “the strength of feeling that has come about as a result of Sarah Everard’s tragic death and understand the concerns relating to violence against women and girls nationally”.

And he added: “We acknowledge that, due to internal process errors, the initial response to the report of the assault was not as swift as it should have been and an apology has been issued with regards to this.”

Banfield pleaded guilty to assault by beating at a hearing in January and at Friday’s hearing received a 14-week curfew order banning him from leaving his house between 19:00 and 07:00. He was also ordered to pay his victim £500 compensation as well as a victim surcharge and court costs.

Ms Homer’s family said a night-time curfew during lockdown was “not really a punishment at all”.

Harriet Harman

Getty Images

Criticising the non-custodial sentence in a tweet, Ms Harman wrote: “He continues in post. WMPolice (West Midlands Police) must review.

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

In a statement, West Midlands Police said Banfield, of Bidford-on-Avon, had been suspended from duty and would now face charges of gross misconduct.

Deputy Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine said: “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.”

The West Midlands police and crime commissioner David Jamieson said he had asked Chief Constable Sir David Thompson to brief him on steps taken by the force.

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