Use of AEPs during east Belfast disorder was justified

The Police Ombudsman has said the police use of 10 AEPs during rioting in east Belfast during the night and morning of 1 and 2 July 2011 was justified.

As in all cases where police use their firearms, the incident was referred to the Police Ombudsman's Office for independent investigation.

Police Ombudsman investigators examined all police documentation, including decision logs made by senior officers and documentation completed by the officers who fired the AEPs. They examined CCTV material gathered from police Land Rovers, a police helicopter and a static camera.  They also listened to radio transmissions.  

During the evening of 1 July 2011, police were present as Ballymacarrett No. 6 Loyal Orange Lodge's Somme Anniversary parade passed the interface at the Castlereagh Street/Montpottinger Road area. 

Police documentation shows that prior to the parade, they had information that opposing factions intended to cause trouble and there was a strong indication police would be attacked.

The parade passed off peacefully, although a large number of people from both sides of the community remained in the area.

By about 11pm police were faced with a large crowd at the junction of Castlereagh Street and the Albertbridge Road.

They moved the crowd further down Castlereagh Street, but came under sustained attack, with stones and bottles being thrown at them.  

Police officers then formed a shield between the crowd and police vehicles.  Senior officers asked for water cannon to be used but were told it would be 10 minutes before the cannon could be brought to the scene.

Police then sought and got permission to use AEPs. They warned those in the crowd that they would use the weapons if the rioting continued.  These warnings had no effect.

By 12:01 am on 2 July 2011, police reported that they discharged 10 AEPs and that the level of rioting has reduced.

Given all the evidence, the Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, concluded that the level of violence that night posed a serious threat to police officers and to  members of the public:

“Police employed a variety of tactics in their attempt to quell the violence but, when these failed, they had no other option but to discharge the AEPS. They issued warnings to the crowd beforehand but these had no effect.

"I am satisfied that the police use of the AEPs was necessary and proportionate,” he said.


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