Published Date: 04.08.2011
Police Ombudsman Mr Al Hutchinson has concluded that a police officer was justified in discharging three warning shots when he and a colleague came under a sustained and dangerous attack in the County Down village of Carrowdore.
The incident happened on 26 January 2010, when the officers were attacked by four men throwing stones and boulders.
The men confronted the officers when they knocked at the door of a house in connection with a report that a vehicle had been involved in an earlier incident.
Officers said they were forced to withdraw under a barrage of stones and boulders.
The officers described the men as being extremely aggressive and violent, and said they had been forced to withdraw under a barrage of stones and boulders.
The officers used CS Spray in an attempt to defend themselves but this proved ineffective. One of the officers then lost his footing and fell to the ground.
He later told Police Ombudsman investigators that he believed his life was in danger as the men bore down on him. He used his personal protection weapon to discharge a single warning shot towards nearby fields.
However, the men kept coming towards him and the officer again tried using his CS Spray, and again it had no effect. Finally, he discharged a further two warning shots from his personal protection weapon, also aimed towards adjacent fields.
At this point two females came out of the house the police had initially called at, and the four men went back indoors. The officers then went back to their vehicle and called for additional police resources. When these arrived, the four men were arrested for riotous behaviour, criminal damage and assault on police.
On 26 April 2010 three members of the public made complaints about the actions of police during the incident. Police Ombudsman investigators made arrangements to meet the complainants, but only one continued with his complaint.
The man (Man A) alleged that his brother had answered the door to two officers who started to ask him questions about a traffic collision. When Man A went to see what was happening he said his brother had been sprayed with CS spray, and when he asked why they had done this, he said he was then sprayed as well.
Man A said one of the officers then fired three shots before pointing his weapon at him and his brothers. He also alleged that he had been struck by a Taser.
Man claimed to have been struck with Taser, but checks showed none of the officers involved had such a weapon.
Police Ombudsman investigators established that neither Officer A or B were trained in the use of Taser, and neither were armed with the weapon at the time of the incident. Further checks also established that none of the officers who arrived to provide backup were deployed with a Taser.
Following the investigation of Man A's complaint a file of relevant evidence was submitted to the Public Prosecution Service, which directed that neither Officer A nor B should be prosecuted for their actions.
The Police Ombudsman, Mr Al Hutchinson, then considered the evidence for any disciplinary issues arising from the police handling of the incident. He concluded that the use of warning shots had been justified and proportionate in the circumstances, given the imminent threat of loss of life or serious injury, and the fact that CS Spray had proved ineffective.
He also found that the officer who discharged the shots was properly trained and authorised to carry the weapon at the time of the incident.