MP claims system ‘fails women’ after off-duty policeman avoids jail for assault

Richard Vernalls, PA
·2-min read

A male off-duty police officer convicted of assaulting a woman has been spared jail, sparking criticism from a leading female MP that the “system fails women and protects men”.

Pc Oliver Banfield, who serves with West Midlands Police, admitted a charge of assault by beating at an earlier hearing in January and on Friday he was handed a curfew, and ordered to pay compensation and costs at Leicester Magistrates’ Court.

Reacting to the sentence, Labour MP Harriet Harman said on Twitter: “Policeman attacks woman walking home alone after dark.

“Must have been terrifying for her but no prison sentence.

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“He continues in post. @WMPolice (West Midlands Police) must review.

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

West Midlands Police said Banfield was “removed from public-facing duties after the assault” while a criminal investigation into the incident in Bidford-on-Avon in July last year was carried out by Warwickshire Police.

The force said that following the end of the criminal investigation process, 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.”