Police officer disciplined after colleague backs up youth’s “broken jaw” claims

Published Date: 12.11.2014

A police officer who told a youth he was lucky not to have a broken jaw has been disciplined for using threatening language following an investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office.

The officer, who denied any misconduct, was disciplined after another officer backed up the youth’s account of the language he had used.

That officer reported that his colleague had told the youth “Shut the f**k up or you’ll be in the back of that van with a broken jaw.”

The youth himself said the officer had told him: “Don’t even think about it, you’re lucky you’re not in the cell with a broken jaw.”

The incident happened in Portglenone in the early hours of 1 August 2011, after police chased and caught another youth, who was arrested on suspicion of a number of offences, including assaulting and resisting police.

He was taken into custody at Ballymena police station, where he told police that he had been assaulted.

Nine days later, one of the officers who had been at the incident told his supervisor that he had seen a colleague assaulting one youth by slapping him on the head and pushing him into a police van, and had heard him using threatening language to the other. He also later told a Police Ombudsman investigator that the officer had tried to influence what he wrote about the incident in his notebook.

When interviewed by the investigator, the officer in question denied any misconduct. He accepted that he had used his open palm to push the youth’s head forward three times because the youth had kept pushing his head back towards him. But he said the force used was minor and no more than had been absolutely necessary.

Statements were obtained from another seven officers who were involved the incident, although only two had been at the scene of the arrest – one of whom was the officer who reported concerns about his colleague’s behaviour.

The other six officers said they had not seen an assault or heard the use of threatening language.

Attempts were made to speak to the youth who alleged he had been assaulted, but he did not co-operate with the Police Ombudsman’s enquiries.

The other youth said he had not seen any assault, but claimed the officer had used threatening language against him.

A file detailing the evidence of the case was sent to the Public Prosecution Service, which directed that the officer should not be prosecuted. The Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, then considered whether the officer had committed any disciplinary offences.

With no corroboration that he had assaulted one of the youths or tried to influence what a colleague wrote in his notebook, those allegations were not upheld.

However, given that the language used by the officer when speaking to the other youth was almost identically described by a colleague and the youth, Dr Maguire concluded that the officer had indeed used threatening language.

The PSNI has since implemented a recommendation that the officer should be disciplined for oppressive conduct.

A number of months after the incident, the two youths appeared at court and were convicted of a number of offences arising out of it.

Twitter home