Five month probe clears PSNI officer over thug's complaints

A police officer's response to an attack which left him fearing for his life has been described as 'entirely justified' by the office of the Police Ombudsman.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 2nd May 2017, 5:56 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:58 pm

From the time it received the complaint, the ombudsman’s office took about five months to clear the policeman of wrongdoing over the confrontation.

The complaint had been made about the officer’s conduct shortly after the incident in Londonderry last August.

The officer received the ruling in January, but the findings were only made public on Tuesday because publication had been held back due to court proceedings.

The incident began when the officer in question, plus a female colleague, had responded to a report of a burglary. New tenants who were moving into a flat found that the door had been kicked in and items had been taken out.

The officers found these missing items in the complainant’s flat upstairs.

During an encounter which lasted about 40 minutes, the officer recounted that the complainant (who was significantly bigger than him) had swung his fists at him and the woman officer when they tried to handcuff him.

The struggle spilled from the hallway of the flat into the stairwell, and he feared either he or his colleague would fall down what he described as a “very steep set of stairs”.

The man had attempted to throw a large vase at him and had also attacked him with “karate-style kicks”, according to his account of events in the ombudsman’s report.

The officer had said he felt he had to “fight for his life”.

The attacker complained the officer had punched him on the nose, kicked him on the back and ribs, and sprayed him with CS spray on at least six occasions.

He also claimed he should not have been arrested, as he had done nothing wrong and was not resisting.

When questioned by a Police Ombudsman investigator, the officer denied assaulting the man. He also said he had used CS Spray on three – not six – occasions.

His account was supported by his colleague and independent witnesses.

The Police Ombudsman investigator concluded that the officer’s use of force, including CS Spray, “was appropriate and necessary”, and concluded that his decision to arrest the man for burglary, criminal damage and assault on police had been entirely justified.

The complainant was convicted of a number of offences in relation to the incident.

The officer was not understood to have been suspended during the ombudsman probe.