Officer did not push lit cigarette into youth’s eye

Published Date: 23.08.2013

An investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office has concluded that a police officer did not push a lit cigarette into a youth’s eye during a struggle in Portglenone in April 2012.

The youth (Youth A) alleged that the officer had grabbed the cigarette from a person who had blown smoke in his face and still had the cigarette in his hand when he pushed him.

Youth A said the lit end of the cigarette entered his eye, causing him to fall to the ground in excruciating pain.

He said the incident, which happened shortly before his 18th birthday, began when an officer took a bottle of beer from him and emptied it out onto the street. Youth A, who was outside a friend’s flat at the time, then went into the flat and told two friends what had happened.

Youths friends became abusive towards officers.

His friends came out of the flat and became abusive towards the three or four officers who were present.

Youth A said one of his friends kept putting his hands up and touching the officers, while holding a cigarette which he said contained cannabis. When this person then blew smoke into the officer’s face, Youth A claimed the officer reacted by grabbing the cigarette and pushing his friend inside the entrance to the flat.

Youth A said he tried to intervene by moving between the officer and his friend, at which point the officer placed both hands on his face and pushed him away. Youth A said the officer was still holding the cigarette, which went into his left eye as he was pushed.

Youth A provided the Police Ombudsman’s Office with details for five potential witnesses to the incident. However, despite extensive efforts to contact them, investigators were able to speak to only two of the five. Both said they had not seen how the injury had been caused, only its aftermath.

No witnesses saw officer pushing cigarette into youth's eye.

Two police officers were interviewed about what had happened – the officer who was alleged to have caused the injury, and another who had been at the scene.

Both said the cigarette was being held by Youth A’s friend when it came into contact with Youth A’s face.

The officer who was subject to the complaint denied ever touching Youth A. He said the person with the cigarette had been waving his hands about and doing this close to his (the officer’s) face. He said that when he warned this person to move away, Youth A’s friend made an exaggerated sweeping movement with his arm, at which point the cigarette hit Youth A in the face.

Both officers also stated that Youth A had been acting strangely, and they believed his action of falling to the ground had been another example of this behaviour. They said that if they had known he was really injured, they would have provided assistance.

The Police Ombudsman investigator also checked for CCTV of the incident, but established that although there were cameras in the vicinity, none covered the hallway in which the incident occurred.

Having reviewed the evidence, the investigator concluded that there was insufficient evidence of any misconduct by any of the officers and closed the complaint as “not substantiated.”

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