Officer had no option but to fire shots: Police Ombudsman

Published Date: 22.03.2005

A Police Ombudsman report has concluded that a police officer had no option but to discharge warning shots to protect a man being beaten by a mob near Carrickfergus castle almost two years ago.

The officer discharged two warning shots into the air to stop an attack by a group of between 8 and 12 men at around midnight on 14/15 June 2003. The victim of the attack had been chased by the mob, before being knocked to the ground and kicked repeatedly.

The officer told Police Ombudsman investigators he had feared for the victim's life and shouted a verbal warning before discharging two shots into the air in the direction of Belfast Lough.

Most of the attackers stopped their assault, and the few who continued were forced away by the officers.

As with all discharges of police firearms in Northern Ireland, the case was referred for investigation to the Police Ombudsman by the Chief Constable of the PSNI.
After investigating the incident, Police Ombudsman Mrs Nuala O'Loan concluded that the officer's actions had been "proportionate, within legislation and guidelines and necessary to prevent serious injury."

"The officers were totally outnumbered and confronted by a hostile mob who were in the act of physically attacking a man as he lay on the ground. The officer had to give consideration to the safety of himself and his colleagues. Having given a verbal warning, which was ignored, the only option available to the officer was to fire warning shots."

The investigation also established, however, that the officer had not received refresher firearms training for over a year, which contravened force guidelines. Mrs O'Loan recommended that the officer and a senior supervising officer should receive a "management discussion" in relation to this failure.


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