Published Date: 15.12.2005
The use of baton rounds was a justified and proportionate response to the serious violence directed at police officers during 24 riots in 2001 and 2002, according to a new Police Ombudsman report.
The report also reveals that the Police Ombudsman recommended informal disciplinary action against six officers found to have breached police procedures during the incidents.
The report summarises the findings of the Police Ombudsman's investigations into all uses of baton rounds during 2001 and 2002.
BRA total of 299 batons rounds were discharged during 24 incidents of serious public disorder 21 of which were in Belfast, two in Portadown and one in Crossmaglen.
While the Police Ombudsman, Mrs Nuala O'Loan, found that police were correct to use baton rounds, and on a number of occasions had acted with considerable restraint, she also made a total of 43 recommendations to address issues with some police policies and practices.
These dealt with matters such as public warnings about the imminent use of baton rounds, records of rounds issued to officers, the videoing of discharges and the use of baton gun assistants.
The recommendations for informal disciplinary action against six officers related to two separate incidents and concerned:
- A failure to comply with recognised procedures for recording the issue and return of baton rounds and a baton gun
- A failure to accurately record the number of baton rounds discharged
The use of a baton gun by an officer whose training had lapsed, and who was therefore not authorised to use the weapon.
Mrs O'Loan said her findings had been based on the extensive analysis of evidence relating to each incident.
"We investigate every discharge of a police firearm, including baton guns," said Mrs O'Loan. "We examine police documentation, photographs and video recordings, we analyse police radio transmissions, interview officers, talk to community leaders and seek to identify witnesses.
"Based on this evidence we look at whether police considered other options before using baton rounds, whether their use was proportionate to the circumstances and in accordance with police regulations, and whether officers were properly trained.
Mrs O'Loan added: "There is no doubting the severity of the violence directed at officers during these incidents. They were targeted with bricks, bottles, petrol and blast bombs, and on occasions, live fire.
"The use of baton rounds was a justified and proportionate response to these life-threatening situations. It is apparent that on many occasions the police acted with considerable restraint. "Having said that my investigations did identify a number of issues regarding police policies and practices which I have drawn to the attention of the Police Service. Many of these recommendations have now been addressed.