Officers who 'laughed at man having a panic attack' cleared following investigation.

Published Date: 03.02.2014

Two police officers alleged to have assaulted a man and mocked his ill health have been cleared following an investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office.

A man alleged that during his arrest at a nightclub in Co. Armagh he was surrounded by four police officers and grabbed roughly around the neck and struck on the face, causing bruising and the loss of a tooth. He further accused an officer of putting the handcuffs on too tightly, and laughing at him when he said he was having a panic attack.

Investigators from the Office obtained all relevant police documentation in respect of this incident. CCTV footage covering the area was seized, as well police radio transmissions, transcripts of the man’s interviews with the police and the medical notes from the doctor on duty that night. Statements were taken from the man, the police officers involved and other witnesses to the incident.

CCTV footage of the incident showed the man being led to the front of the nightclub by door staff. Following an altercation he was restrained on the ground by the staff, who then waved down a passing police vehicle. A male and female police officer approached. These officers were the only police officers involved in the incident. There is no evidence on the CCTV footage that either officer grabbed the man by the neck or struck him on the face. Witnesses describe police dealing with the man in a calm and professional manner, despite the man being unsteady on his feet, drunk and aggressive.

Witnesses also described how the man threatened to have them shot. The police officers describe him as being verbally aggressive and threatening to shoot them. Radio transmissions from the police vehicle captured the man shouting obscenities to the police officers as they drove him to the police station.

The man was seen by a doctor later that evening. The doctor notes that it was impossible to obtain a coherent medical history from the man due to the levels of alcohol intoxication and agitation. Dental attention was not requested by the man.

One of the police officers, when interviewed under caution, refuted that he applied the man’s handcuffs too tightly. He stated that when he applied the handcuffs he followed normal police practice of checking the tightness by putting two of his own fingers between the handcuff and the wrist, and double-locking the handcuffs to ensure they would not tighten further. The other police officer present also confirmed this. CCTV footage shows the police officer who applied the handcuffs checking them.

Additionally, both officers refuted the claim that the man had a panic attack, was short of breath, or that he claimed illness during the journey back to the police station. The man did not report any shortness of breath or illness to the doctor when seen at the police station.

Based on these findings, and on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations against the officers, the man’s complaint was rejected by the Police Ombudsman.

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