Published Date: 07.11.2014
The Police Ombudsman has concluded that police were justified in firing three baton rounds during rioting associated with the Union Flag protests in Carrickfergus in December 2012.
The use of baton rounds was referred by the Chief Constable to the Police Ombudsman for independent investigation.
During their investigation, Police Ombudsman investigators reviewed all relevant police documentation, including command and control records, use of force forms, and officers’ statements and notebook entries. Police CCTV footage of the disorder was also reviewed.
They established that police had been deployed to a number of areas in Carrickfergus on the evening of 5 December in response to disorder.
The most serious violence happened in the West Street area of the town where police were confronted by a hostile crowd which attacked them with masonry, street furniture, fireworks and other missiles.
The police commander authorised the use of baton rounds at 8.15pm, given the intensity of the violence and concerns about the safety of police officers, and on the basis that no other tactical options were available.
AEP use authorised due to intensity of violence, fears for officers and the lack of any other tactical options.
At around 8.20pm, three rounds were fired at people recorded by officers as having been attacking police.
Two struck their targets, who police noted had been approaching police lines with large pieces of masonry. One was struck in the waist area, the other on “a lower limb.”
A third round was fired at a masked and hooded rioter reported to have been throwing masonry at police from behind a fence. The round missed its target and struck the fence.
Police kept the authorisation for the deployment of baton rounds under review, and at 9.15pm authorisation was rescinded. No further rounds were discharged thereafter.
Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, noted that CCTV evidence supported police accounts of having come under a severe and sustained attack by rioters. He concluded that police had acted in accordance with legislation and training, and found that the use of AEPs had been lawful and proportionate.