Officers cleared following claims of excessive use of force

Published Date: 18.08.2014

The Police Ombudsman’s Office has found that police used reasonable force during the arrest of a man in a recent incident outside a bar in North Down.  The Office investigated claims from the man that police officers used an excessive amount of CS Spray on him, struck him six or seven times with a police baton and arrested him for no reason during the incident.

Investigators from the Office obtained CCTV coverage from cameras in the area, consulted medical evidence, spoke to witnesses and obtained accounts from the officers present.

Whilst the footage did show the complainant around the time of the incident, it did not cover any interaction with the police.

The arresting officer stated that he attended the bar following a request for assistance from colleagues who were already at the location.  He said that when he arrived he witnessed the complainant trying to release other males who were being arrested by police.

He stated that the man then violently grabbed another officer.  After a shouted warning to stop had no effect, fearing for his colleagues’ safety he then struck the man with his baton two or three times on his leg.   When this also did not work and after noticing that the officers’ vest was tightening around his neck and affecting his breathing, the arresting officer then struck the man a further two times on the leg.  The man then released his grip and went down on one knee.

Despite this, according to the officer the man continued to be aggressive to police and that he was struggling so much he was unable to place handcuffs on his wrists.

The officer who used the CS Spray was questioned by Ombudsman investigators.  She said that she witnessed the arresting officer strike the man with his baton, but that it had no effect on him.  She attempted to restrain him herself but could not because of his size.

Therefore, in order to prevent further injury to police or to the man she said she decided to use CS Spray.  After a warning was ignored she delivered one sharp burst of 2-3 seconds to the upper chest area.  She said the effect was instantaneous, enabling police to apply the handcuffs to the man’s wrists.

Both officers claimed that their use of force was necessary and proportionate.

The CS canister used was weighed after it was used, and the recorded volume of spray used was consistent with the short burst described by the officer.  A number of other officers present during the incident also gave statements about what they saw, and these supported the accounts of the two officers concerned.

A witness statement from a member of the public was also recorded during the investigation, but as this person did not actually witness the full extent of the incident the statement only had limited use.

As the complainant made an allegation of assault, a file was submitted to the Public Prosecution Service.  Following consideration by them the file was returned with a direction of ‘No Prosecution’. 

Accordingly, the complaint was not upheld by the Ombudsman on the basis that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations.

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