Published Date: 16.12.2015
An investigation into a complaint that the police confiscated a woman’s mobile phone so they could destroy footage of them carrying out an assault has found no evidence of police misconduct. Upon viewing CCTV evidence Police Ombudsman investigators concluded that reasonable force was used during the incident, and that the seizure of the phone was justified.
The complaint was made to the Police Ombudsman’s Office by the woman who said that she went to the aid of her partner who had been forced to the ground aggressively and arrested by the police for no apparent reason. She stated that she filmed the incident on her mobile phone, which was then taken from her and she was arrested unlawfully herself. She also alleged that an officer shoved her into a police car, causing her to injure her arm on the car door.
The CCTV footage showed the woman’s partner being, in the judgment of the Ombudsman investigator, obstructive and uncooperative with police. While police were applying handcuffs to him he moved forward towards them, in what was believed to be an attempt to cause them injury.
Police then forced him to the ground in order to restrain him. The force used by police in the circumstances was judged to be justified and proportionate.
Investigators also viewed footage which showed that the complainant had been obstructing police prior to her arrest, corroborating police accounts that she did not move back when asked to do so. Her arrest was therefore deemed necessary by the Ombudsman.
When asked about the seizure of the woman’s mobile phone, the officers stated that it was taken from her as they thought it may have contained footage of her and her partner’s aggressive behaviour.
As the police are lawfully entitled to seize anything which is believed to be evidence of an offence, the Ombudsman was satisfied that in this case the phone was seized because of a possible crime committed by the couple and not, as the complainant alleged, in order to destroy evidence of police aggression or misconduct.
The woman’s interaction with police while being taken to the police car was also recorded on the CCTV footage. This showed the woman being led to the police car by an officer and getting into the police car voluntarily with no struggle or apparent objections.
No police misconduct was identified during the incident.