South Yorkshire police officer jailed for pulling down teen girl's top and photographing her chest in pub

The 18-year-old victim said she used to feel safe when she saw police officers: "I never think that now."

Watch more of our videos on Shots!
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

A South Yorkshire police officer who pulled down an 18-year-old’s top and photographed her chest during a night out has been jailed, and registered as a sex offender.

Married father-of-four Paul Hinchcliffe, 46, was sentenced to eight months in prison on Friday (31 March) in the Leeds Crown Court, 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”.

The court heard the young complainant say in a victim 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," she said.

Warning: the story contains details some may find disturbing

Hinchcliffe, who resigned from South Yorkshire Police after his conviction, was found guilty of sexual assault earlier this year by a jury. The incident happened when he was in a group including other officers, drinking at a Wetherspoons pub in Wath upon Dearne, South Yorkshire, on 3 October, 2020.

Paul Hinchcliffe, 46, a South Yorkshire Pc, was earlier found guilty of sexual assault at Leeds Crown Court (Photo: South Yorkshire Police)Paul Hinchcliffe, 46, a South Yorkshire Pc, was earlier found guilty of sexual assault at Leeds Crown Court (Photo: South Yorkshire Police)
Paul Hinchcliffe, 46, a South Yorkshire Pc, was earlier found guilty of sexual assault at Leeds Crown Court (Photo: South Yorkshire Police)

Recounting the events of that evening, Judge Robin Mairs said the defendant took a photograph of the woman wearing her glasses and showed everyone else, saying: "I’m going to have a w*** 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?" Hinchcliffe's defence lawyer, Katherine Pierpoint, 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 her 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 behaviour of Hinchcliffe and other officers that night “went far beyond jokes and banter”, he said.

The judge 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.”

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.”

Hinchcliffe will also be added to the sex offenders register for 10 years.