In response to Fandango’s Who Won the Week post, I have been looking at my own newsfeeds.
Outside the UK, you probably didn’t hear of this story, but have a look at this 30s clip:
Now, this clip happened last July. The subject might be fresh in our minds from Sarah Everard, but this happened way before that. If anything, this goes to show how nothing changes.
This footage is a guy, Oliver Banfield, assaulting a woman, Emma Homer. I imagine something must have happened leading up to this, but that’s no excuse for his behaviour. What I find particularly distressing is that his girlfriend can be heard calling his name, to calm him down.
The reason this is interesting is because the incident was reported to the authorities, who decided that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the guy. On that, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt – I’m not sure that this video had been discovered at the time the original decision was made. But it does underline what I said the other week about the authorities being unwilling to bring risky prosecutions.
Mrs Homer appealed, and the authorities changed their minds and went ahead with the prosecution. Following a very sluggish investigation, this has all come to a head in the last few weeks here. So while the actual incident happened before Sarah Everard, the court case has occurred very much in the same timeframe.
Mr Banfield was found guilty. I guess by then, this video had emerged, so it is not at all surprising.
What was surprising, however, was the sentence. Mr Banfield was sentenced to a fourteen-week curfew. Yes, he was forbidden from leaving home between 7 PM – 7 AM. And this, at a time when the UK is under lockdown anyway. And will be locked down, until June..
Now this case raises several questions, already. The sluggishness of the investigation? Perhaps, because a man assaulting a woman is regarded as a low priority? The light sentence? Perhaps because the offence is regarded as trivial?
But it gets more interesting, because Mr Banfield turns out to have been an off-duty police officer. So, perhaps the more sinister answer to these questions is that the authorities want to protect their own?
Frankly, this is why they need to be squeaky-clean. But, whatever the reasons, something smells.
The case is further complicated because the victim claims that, having discovered that she had been assaulted by a police officer, a guy sworn to protect and serve, the damage was that much worse.
In more recent events, first of all, the sentence made the case reach the news. So the UK now knows of the case. It has been all over several outlets.
That prompted Banfield’s employer, West Midlands Police, to announce that there would be a misconduct hearing. Well, it seems the least they can do, under the circumstances. But shouldn’t the charges have been the trigger for this? Not the publicity? As in, a court case decides if he broke the law; a misconduct case decides whether he came up to the police’s standards? Two different things. Surely those two bars are set at different levels? Surely the police expect something better than just “not criminal”?
Anyway, this is a long post by my standards, so I just wanted to wrap it up. Banfield won the week, because last Tuesday he resigned from the police, before they could kick him out on his ass.
In one final, bizarre twist, though, the police have decided that the misconduct hearing will happen anyway, in his absence. I’m cynical. It seems an attempt to redress some of the bad publicity, as though it isn’t the offence that’s important, but the reaction. Also, I’m not clear what teeth it has, now that the guy has already gone. But it feels a bit like the authorities started way off the pace, finally realised the “right thing to do”, and are consequently behaving like a dog with a bone, despite events having once again overtaken them. I don’t know about a sluggish investigation, they just feel sluggish all round.
Thank goodnesst at least that Mrs Homer survived to tell the tale. And thank goodness good people are around to record this stuff.