Off-duty officer acted in self-defence when he punched doorman outside Belfast nightclub

An off-duty police officer acted in self-defence when he punched a nightclub doorman in the face, a Police Ombudsman investigation has concluded.

The doorman said he suffered a black eye and bruising to his cheek when he was struck by the officer after shoving him away from the door of the Belfast city centre nightclub shortly before 2am on 9 December 2009.

CCTV footage showed the doorman approaching the officer from the side and pushing him backwards before continuing to walk towards him.  The officer reacted by punching the doorman on the face, before being taken to the ground and restrained by door staff.

After the scuffle, the officer “placed himself on duty” by informing those present that he was a police officer and producing his warrant card, before reporting the incident to police.

The officer’s actions were subsequently referred by the Chief Constable to the Police Ombudsman’s Office for independent investigation.

Police Ombudsman investigators secured statements from a number of witnesses, including the doorman who was struck by the officer (Man A). He said the officer and another man had been verbally aggressive to door staff as they had been leaving the club.

He said the officer threatened to kill him, and he reacted by pushing him in the chest in an attempt to move him away.

The officer then punched him in the face, and Man A stated that during the ensuing scuffle the officer punched him twice more in the face. His account was corroborated by another member of the door staff.  
When interviewed, the police officer admitted that he had struck the doorman, but said he had done so in self-defence after he had been assaulted.

The officer’s cousin, who had been with him at the time, said they had begun to walk away when Man A, who he described as being agitated and angry, walked towards them, followed by other doormen.

Police Ombudsman investigators secured CCTV of the incident, which showed the officer standing close to other door staff outside the venue, about two metres from Man A, with other people in between them. 

The footage then shows Man A approaching the officer from the side and forcefully shoving him backwards, and continuing to walk towards him. The officer walked backwards with his arms by his side, before striking Man A in the face with his right fist.

The investigation concluded that, after being shoved by the doorman who was continuing to move towards him, it would have been reasonable for the officer to have perceived that he was about to be assaulted.

A file was sent to the Public Prosecution Service, which directed that the officer should not be prosecuted, and no misconduct issues were identified by the Police Ombudsman.
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