A police officer who pulled down a woman’s top and photographed her breasts during a night out has been jailed.
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. The jury heard that the incident happened when he was in a group including other officers who were drinking at a Wetherspoon’s pub in Wath upon Dearne, South Yorkshire, on the afternoon of 3 October 2020.
The 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. Mairs said Hinchcliffe then started flicking beer foam at the woman’s 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 may be an explanation for his “completely out-of-character” behaviour.
She pointed the judge towards 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.
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 have felt.”
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.
The judge said Hinchcliffe would be added to the sex offender register for 10 years.