Police in Northern Ireland were justified in firing on a man who was blinded in the right eye during the incident, a watchdog report has said.
Two rounds were discharged by an officer who feared for his life after a stolen car was driven directly towards him in Dundonald, Co Down, in January 2007. One of the shots struck the car’s front seat passenger.
Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire said the use of live fire had been justified in the circumstances and made no recommendation for disciplinary action against the officers involved.
A statement from his office said: “The Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire noted that forensic evidence suggested the first shot was fired when the car was only a few metres from the officer and the second when it was even closer.
“He said the officer would have had little or no time to react between the two shots.
“He added that while officers were discouraged from firing shots at moving vehicles, legislation and guidelines did provide for rare occasions on which there was an imminent and seemingly inescapable risk of death or serious injury.”
The incident happened in a cul-de-sac in the Comber Road area of Dundonald in the early hours of January 28, 2007.
The scene was forensically examined and accounts obtained from witnesses, including police, the occupants of the stolen car and local householders.
Two officers on patrol had noticed a Vauxhall Monaro car which had been reported as stolen earlier that evening. The officers followed the vehicle and used their car to try to block its exit from the cul-de-sac.
The Monaro accelerated then struck the front of the police car before reversing. The officers got out of their car, one drew his handgun and shouted “armed police” but the car drove at speed, with tyres screeching, towards him. The policeman was between the car, footpath and a garden wall.
The Ombudsman said: “The officer said he feared for his life and was aware that his colleague had been moving to join him and was also likely to be at risk.
“He stepped onto the footpath to his left but by this stage he said the car was on top of him. Fearing that he and his colleague would be killed, the officer said he discharged two shots in quick succession at the driver of the car. One of the shots struck the passenger in the head.”
The shot passed through the passenger’s right arm, struck him on the right side of the head before lodging in the passenger seat door. It damaged an optic nerve and blinded the man in his right eye.
The car then mounted the footpath and drove through the gap between the police car and the wall, narrowly missing the officer, before turning onto the Comber Road and stopping a short distance away.