A police officer who pulled down a young woman’s top and photographed her breasts during a night out has been jailed.
Married father-of-four Paul Hinchcliffe, 46, was sent to prison for eight months on Friday by a judge who told him his behaviour “betrays your fellow officers who do a decent, committed job and makes women mistrustful of the police force”.
Leeds Crown Court heard that the 18-year-old complainant said in an impact statement: “All my trust for the police just went.
“I used to feel safe when I saw police officers. I never think that now.
“He sexually assaulted me when he should’ve been in a role that protects people.”
Hinchcliffe, who resigned from South Yorkshire Police after his conviction, was found guilty of sexual assault earlier this year by a jury which heard that the incident happened when he was in a group including other officers who were drinking at a Wetherspoons pub in Wath upon Dearne, South Yorkshire, on the afternoon of October 3 2020.
Judge Robin Mairs recounted the drunken events in the bar, reminding the defendant how he took a photograph of the woman wearing her glasses and showed everyone else, saying: “I’m going to have a wank to that tonight.”
He then started flicking beer foam at her chest in what the judge decided was him simulating semen.
The judge said Hinchcliffe pulled open the woman’s top and photographed her breasts inside her bra while making orgasm noises before sending the image to a colleague.
The woman, who lived with her parents, was at home later when she got WhatsApp messages from Hinchcliffe with a picture of her accompanied by what the judge called “masturbating emojis”.
One message said: “God I’d do you, is that bad?
Katherine Pierpoint, defending, urged the judge to suspend the prison sentence.
She said her client’s drunkenness during the event was no excuse, and was an aggravating factor, but it might be an explanation for his “completely out-of-character” behaviour.
She pointed the judge towards a raft of references from colleagues about his service during a 20-year police career.
“He should not have got himself into that state,” the barrister told the court.
Ms Pierpoint stressed that, unlike some recent high-profile cases, this was not a case of a police officer using his position to commit an offence.
But she conceded: “He should’ve know better than anyone how somebody in this situation would’ve felt.”
Judge Mairs rejected the plea to suspend the prison sentence, noting that Hinchcliffe was training student police officers at the time of the offence.
He said Hinchcliffe breached the standards he was tasked with instilling into recruits.
Referring to the references he had read, the judge said Hinchcliffe’s behaviour on that afternoon was “scarcely credible in the light of that background”.
He said the behaviour of Hinchcliffe and other officers that night “went far beyond jokes and banter”.
Judge Mairs said the complainant’s trust in men had been affected by the incident and “her trust in the police is now highly dented because of what you did”.
He told Hinchcliffe: “You were in your 40s and she was an 18-year-old girl.
“This was not committed whilst you were on police duties but it was committed in the company of other police officers.”
He said offences of this kind “reduce public confidence and reduce public trust in the police force”.
Judge Mairs said: “Sexual offences committed by police officers, recorded and disseminated to others, are offences where the only appropriate punishment can be achieved by immediate custody.”
He said Hinchcliffe, who stood in the glass-fronted dock wearing a light blue suit, white shirt and blue tie, will be added to the sex offenders register for 10 years.
South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Lauren Poultney said on Friday: “This case demonstrates that wrongdoing and poor standards will not be tolerated in South Yorkshire Police.
“Whether our officers and staff are on duty or not, the public rightly expect us to portray the true values of policing at all times and this former officer fell woefully below these expectations.
“I am mindful this hearing follows the release of the Casey report last week and wish to assure our communities that here in South Yorkshire Police we are doing absolutely everything we can to root out those who are not fit to represent your force.”
She added: “Force standards and culture continue to be my top priority and when wrongdoing and poor standards are identified, the perpetrators will be dealt with swiftly and robustly.”