There has been a history of public disorder at the "interface" site between Corcrain Road and Obins Drive in Portadown. Police officers were aware of a threat assessment indicating that blast, petrol and acid bombs, fireworks and other material were available for rioters in the area. During the evening of 11 July minor disturbances broke out in Corcrain Road, with people attacking the police and the houses in Obins Drive and Obins Avenue with stones and petrol bombs. Some residents in the Obins area retaliated. With the agreement of community leaders the police adopted a low profile, monitoring the situation.
However, by about 2.00am, a crowd of 200 persons were throwing petrol and acid bombs and fireworks at the police. A Police Chief Superintendent authorised the use of baton rounds, and a Police Inspector gave a warning to the crowd over a public address system that baton rounds would be discharged if the rioting did not cease. A police officer discharged a baton round at a masked man who was about to throw a large missile. He reported that the baton had struck the man. Two police officers discharged one baton round each at a man who was about to throw a lit object, possibly a blast-bomb. The officers said both rounds had hit their intended target. The same two officers then discharged one baton round each at another man who was about to throw a lit object. Again, both officers reported hits. Water cannon were then used to push the crowd back, which enabled the formation of a secure police and military line. Several police officers were injured during the incident.
Two members of the public made complaints against the police as a result of being hit by baton rounds; one complainant had suffered a broken leg and the other bruising on his leg. Both of these complaints were investigated but no evidence of police misconduct was found.
Outcome of investigation:
The Police Ombudsman, Mrs Nuala O'Loan, concluded that the police had been subjected to a sustained, violent and life-threatening attack. This occurred despite their initial low profile approach and liaison with community leaders in a bid to avert disorder.
Mrs O'Loan stated: "The level and scale of the disorder, in particular the use of petrol and acid bombs, fireworks, stones and pipe bombs, resulted in several officers being injured. At one point a pipe bomb struck an officer but fortunately did not explode."
The discharge of the baton rounds was fully justified and proportionate, as were the authorisation and directions given. The deployment and use of the baton rounds was in accordance with the relevant RUC/PSNI and ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) guidance. A further baton round was discharged by a member of the Army during the incident, but as this falls outside the remit of the Police Ombudsman it was not investigated by this office.