PC Oliver Banfield leaves court (Photo by Sally Homer)
I have posted a couple of blogs (HERE and HERE) about police officer Oliver Banfield’s unprovoked night time attack and violent assault on a woman and how he escaped a prison sentence. Instead of prison, he was given a 14-week night curfew – in effect, less than a slap on the wrist in the current national COVID lockdown.
Yesterday morning, I was talking to my eternally un-named friend.
“He was lucky,” she said, “that he could wear a mask leaving court”. She was shocked that he got away with it. “Crazy lack of action,” she said. “Surely he will be sacked?”
“He will,” I suggested, “presumably resign before being sacked. And I guess keep any pension contributions etc etc. Normally they resign before they get investigated for misconduct then they don’t get prosecuted so have an unblemished record while they were serving, before they resigned. They were not sacked. He was unlucky the police were pressurised into taking him to court first – although they tried their very best not to prosecute him.”
Frames from CCTV video of attack by PC Oliver Banfield (6ft 2in tall) on the woman (5ft 2in tall)
After the court sentencing, a police spokesman said PC Oliver Banfield would still face “a misconduct hearing in due course”.
Last night, uber-Fringegoer Sandra Smith told me she had sent my first (not my second) blog to the Chief Constable of the West Midlands police force ‘Dave’ Thompson (for whom PC Oliver Banfield worked) to see the reaction. She got this reply:
“I have read the piece thank you… There are a number of tweets that I have been copied in concerning this. For reason relating to police conduct procedures I cannot comment.”
Deputy Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine: “had to wait”
“The misconduct process had had to wait until after criminal and court processes concluded, because of police regulations.”
The police are telling direct porky pies.
Chief Constable Dave Thompson: “I cannot comment”
As I mentioned in my second blog – the one Chief Constable ‘Dave’ Thompson did not read… on 17th February, in a phone call and follow-up email to Sally Homer, the victim’s aunt, the police’s Professional Standards Dept confirmed that, because PC Banfield had (eventually) admitted that he was guilty, they did not have to wait until sentencing and their conduct review could begin immediately.
“…this matter is no longer Sub Judice as the officer pleaded guilty to assault… That now means we can continue with our conduct investigation which will include the review of the criminal case too”
That was on 17th February.
PC Oliver Banfield (Photo from C4 report)
One of these statements has to be a lie.
Either Deputy Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine is a liar and the misconduct hearing could have started on or before 17th February – over a month ago.
Or the police Professional Standards Department lied in a conversation and in writing in an email on 17th February.
Both cannot be true.
The Channel 4 report on PC Oliver Banfield’s attack (caught on CCTV) is online HERE.
MET POLICE’S SEXIST CULTURE OF PORN, BULLYING AND SEX JOKES EXPOSED with the sub-heading: EXCLUSIVE: Former female police officers have lifted the lid on the shocking misogyny in the police including male colleagues passing around porn and making jokes about having sex with a missing woman
It quoted former Greater Manchester Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy saying: “I have three grown-up daughters. If a member of my family was attacked, I would probably say no they shouldn’t report it. (The criminal justice system is) built on Victorian principles. It needs an overhaul.”
Susannah Fish, a former Nottinghamshire chief constable, the Mirror reported, believes that “misogyny in our police forces feed into the UK’s shockingly low rape and sexual harassment conviction rates… Misogyny is so ingrained in the decision-making… I would worry about reporting a crime against myself because I am not sure that it would be taken seriously.”
REVEALED: THE GRIM LIST OF SEX ABUSE CLAIMS AGAINST METROPOLITAN POLICE with a sub-heading: The force upheld 119 cases among 600 complaints; they included an officer who was sacked after having sex with a rape victim
It included this:
“Figures from the Royal College of Policing’s current ‘barred list’ – officers who have been dismissed from a force and are banned from joining another – show that nearly a fifth of offences include abuse of position for sexual purposes, domestic violence or harassment against the public and colleagues.
“Of the 555 officers barred since the list was introduced in December 2017, more than 1,100 reasons for dismissal are listed of which more than 200 involve sexual, harassment or domestic abuse offences. Nearly a quarter of the barred officers served in the Metropolitan Police.”
Today, I read a piece in my local paper, the Borehamwood and Elstree Times, about a woman who had been sentenced to prison for assault – spitting at a Hertfordshire police officer. Admittedly spitting in someone’s face during the COVID pandemic is serious.
But a week ago, I posted a piece written by promoter Sally Homer about her niece, who had been brutally attacked and violently assaulted in the street at night in Warwickshire by a serving, off-duty West Midlands police officer.
It detailed the delay and obstruction which was encountered in trying to prosecute the police officer, despite a CCTV video (with clear sound) of the incident showing the unprovoked attack.
PC Oliver Banfield at the court (Photo by Sally Homer)
The policeman – PC Oliver Banfield – was last week found guilty of ‘assault by beating’ and sentenced at Leicester Magistrates’ Court for his attack. He was given no prison sentence. He was prosecuted in Leicester despite the fact the crime did not happen in Leicester, he does not live in Leicester and does not serve in Leicester. One can only presume this was done so as not to embarrass him in his home area.
Instead of a prison sentence, he was given a 14-week night-time curfew and faces disciplinary action; he is still a serving police officer and avoided a community service order because it was said it would be difficult for him to work with criminals.
A propos the 14-week night-time curfew – PC Oliver Banfield’s ‘sentence’ for a violent ‘assault by beating’ – it is worth remembering that the current COVID Lockdown restrictions mean no-one is supposed to leave home unless it is absolutely necessary; all pubs, restaurants, cafes are closed except for take-aways; and all entertainment venues are closed.
I cannot see his life being affected.
Sally Homer has written this follow-up piece which discusses the PR spin (some might call it continued dishonesty) used by the police in this case.…
Sally – an expert in issuing PR statements – suggests that this piece should be a must-read for Police Communications Officers. I agree.
On Friday afternoon both police forces – Warwickshire (investigating) and West Midlands (PC Banfield’s employer) – issued statements after C4 News invited them to respond within 24 hours.
West Midlands’ statement begins: “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 were pleased to learn he had been suspended but the word ‘currently’ is deeply misleading.
We received a phone call and follow-up email from their professional standards dept on 17th February (this year) explaining that, because PC Banfield pleaded guilty, they did not have to wait until sentencing and their conduct review could begin immediately:
“To clarify our conversation today I have explained that this matter is no longer Sub Judice as the officer pleaded guilty to assault and he is due to be sentenced on 5thMarch 2020. That now means we can continue with our conduct investigation which will include the review of the criminal case too.”
Did they give us false information a full month ago whilst PC Banfield remained in post (albeit on restrictive duties)?
Were they lying to the victim or misleading the public?
Frames from CCTV video of attack by PC Oliver Banfield (6ft 2in tall) on the woman (5ft 2in tall)
Warwickshire’s statement ended:
“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. A proportionate investigation was then conducted, which ultimately led to the charge and prosecution of the perpetrator.”
A ‘proportionate investigation’ – nothing to do with the case against Banfield – was conducted into their OWN investigation because we made a formal complaint in August 2020 – that ultimately lead to the apology offered to my niece. The charge was made because we made a ‘victim’s right to appeal’ to the Crown Prosecution Service and the prosecution resulted because he pleaded guilty.
In fact, Warwickshire Police did less than nothing to bring this case to court and this statement is deeply inaccurate and misleading.
So Police Communications Officers take note:
THIS IS HOW TO WRITE A PR STATEMENT:
DON’T TELL LIES
DON’T TAKE CREDIT FOR SOMETHING YOU HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH
Personally, I think it is a faint hope that the police will change their ways.
Found guilty – but PC Oliver Banfield walks free (Photograph from C4 video)
Harriet Wistrich, Director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, issued the following statement:
“No wonder women are angry and protesting against male violence, misogyny in the police and across the criminal justice system.
“They are being failed by the police, failed by the CPS (the Crown Prosecution Service) and now failed by the judiciary.
“A mere curfew for a misogynist and violent crime such as this is laughable.
“We hope the police will now take uncompromising action against the officer and signal that there is no place for this conduct under any circumstances from their officers.”
Also, if you read the email received from the Police ‘Professional Standards Department’ on 17th February this year and quoted by Sally Homer, you may have noticed they said in writing: “…this matter is no longer Sub Judice as the officer pleaded guilty to assault and he is due to be sentenced on 5thMarch 2020″.
The sentencing was later delayed to 19th March. But police accuracy is somewhat called into question when they think this is 2020 not 2021…. If you want to know the time (or the facts) do not ask a policeman.
Last week, the UK news was full of the shocking case of Sarah Everard’s killing. A serving Metropolitan Police officer has been arrested and charged with her abduction and murder. The abduction is thought to have happened on Clapham Common in London.
Below is a piece written by Sally Homer about a separate case and posted on her Facebook page.
This week, a police officer will be sentenced for an ‘assault by beating’.
The assault happened in July 2020 as my niece (let’s call her Gemma) walked home in the dark at 1am. The officer (let’s call him PC Danfell) pleaded guilty at Leamington Magistrates Court in January 2021 and his sentencing hearing will take place in Leicester Magistrates’ Court this week.
So that is the news.
Except it probably won’t be the news because – for PC Danfell’s convenience – the hearing will take place in the East Midlands, outside local media scrutiny of where he lives and was charged (Warwickshire) and where he works (West Midlands).
Since the assault – an unprovoked, verbal, and brutal physical attack by a stranger (who turned out to be an off duty-policeman) – Gemma has experienced many instances where the criminal justice system is stacked in favour of the police rather than the victim.
The details of the assault and the subsequent effect on her life are not mine to share. That is Gemma’s story. But I can share the circumstances that have taught me this: if you are a woman who has been assaulted by a serving police officer, then be prepared to battle extremely hard to get justice.
I am a theatre/comedy publicist, so I have had plenty of time due to the pandemic to navigate complicated complaint procedures, to liaise with two police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service. I spent hours researching divergent police procedures when a suspect is a serving police officer. I have been a passionate advocate for Gemma. By focusing on the admin, I was able to better handle the sense of shock at the injustice of it all.
I used a brilliant service provided by the Rights of Women organisation whereby I was able to talk to a criminal barrister for free for an hour.
Such an odd situation: the victim requiring sophisticated legal advice.
But, without their guidance, I don’t believe we would have secured a conviction.
The attack happened at 1am and Gemma reported it 7 hours later, at 8am.
Without ever explicitly referring to this as her ‘mistake’ the investigating police force have implied that their poor response was in part because Gemma did not report the attack immediately.
Under covid restrictions, minimal face-to-face contact was the narrative from the police… Still, it took over 30 hours for an officer to take Gemma’s statement over the phone; it took a week until she was given a name of an officer who would be in charge of the investigation; and it took nine days for an officer to come and see her to sign her statement – despite several attempts by Gemma, myself, and her brother to get a proportionate response to the report of a serious crime.
Gemma supplied the police with two witnesses and, within a week of the assault, with the name, address and photograph of her assailant.
The police had been independently sent 90 seconds of CCTV from a witness who reported the assault without any knowledge that the victim and the assailant were her near neighbours.
Police reassured Gemma that, because the suspect was a serving police officer employed by another force, the investigation would be carried out with extra care and vigilance.
In practice, the opposite was true.
They failed to secure crucial evidence and, even though the assault happened 10 metres from her front door and her assailant lives less than 30 metres away, it took a further 8 weeks for officers to conduct thorough house-to-house enquiries and interview PC Danfell.
When interviewed and allowed to watch the CCTV evidence, PC Danfell (6ft 2in) did not dispute the incident took place but created a back-story about how he was defending himself, as Gemma (5ft 2in and 8 stone) had, he said, assaulted him just before the CCTV caught the incident.
A sergeant came to see us and explained that, since it was Gemma’s word against his, then PC Danfell would be ‘served with a caution’.
We were incredulous. There was no scrutiny of his story and anyway, the CCTV clearly showed excessive force.
Emboldened by reading the Centre for Women’s Justice ‘super complaint’ about how police officers are allowed to abuse women with impunity, we insisted that they take the case to the Crown Prosecution Service and offered-up Gemma’s medical records as evidence. Gemma had sustained no cuts or broken bones but the effect on her mental well-being was severe.
The CPS’s response was not to charge due to lack of evidence. We got savvier. And appealed.
The CPS were finally committed to do some investigative work.
Danfell’s narrative fell apart and he was finally charged at the end of last year, JUST within the 6-month statue for this offence.
We have faced barriers that are common to thousands of cases throughout the UK, most commonly associated with domestic abuse by police officers against their partners.
Namely: difficulties in initial reporting, failures in investigation, improper responses to complaints/concerns, manipulation of police processes, accused using their police knowledge, status and powers and improper decisions on criminal charges.
If you are a victim, you are fighting on two fronts – the actual IN YA FACE violent misogyny of the assault itself and the systemic, drudging, hidden misogyny of the police and the criminal justice system.
I began writing this blog before Sarah Everard’s murder. I was going to wind it up with a neat quip about looking forward to the new series of the BBC TV series Line of Duty.
But last night I watched the news hoping it wasn’t real, that Kate Fleming from Line of Duty would walk into shot on Clapham Common and we’d know justice would be done.