Officer cleared of breaking car window "despite being offered keys"

Published Date: 19.04.2016

A Police Ombudsman investigation has rejected a claim that a police officer smashed a car window despite being offered keys to unlock the vehicle.

The incident happened last August as police responded to reports of suspicious activity in the early hours of the morning in a forest outside Benburb.

Officers said they found a car containing dogs and equipment associated with the illegal activity of badger baiting.

The car’s owner claimed he turned up as an officer was about to use a baton to break a window, and said that despite offering him his keys, the officer went ahead and smashed the glass.

He also alleged that the officer grabbed him by the throat and pushed him, and kept him in handcuffs for an excessive amount of time after he was arrested. 

In addition, he claimed that police deliberately delayed returning his dogs and vehicle after they had been seized during the incident.

He also alleged that his arrest had been unlawful as he had been rabbit lamping rather than badger baiting.

However, when interviewed by a Police Ombudsman investigator, an officer said the man had not been there when he broke the car window. He said he had waited for him to return for a considerable period of time while other officers went to the man’s home and asked his girlfriend for the keys. She refused to hand them over. 

Civilian witnesses, as well as a colleague, corroborated the officer’s account that the man had not been there when the window was broken.

They also supported his account that he had not grabbed the man by the throat, although the officer did admit that he had pushed the man on the chest because he was interfering with his efforts to seize evidence.

The Police Ombudsman investigator concluded that this use of force was proportionate, and the man’s arrest lawful, in order to allow for a prompt and effective investigation into whether he had been involved in badger baiting.

Police records also indicated that the man had been kept in handcuffs for around 25 minutes while he was taken into police custody. The Police Ombudsman investigator concluded that this was “not an excessive period of time.”

The man’s complaints about the release of his car and dogs having been deliberately delayed by police were also rejected. The animals were held at boarding kennels, and the car at a vehicle recovery yard – both of which were run by independent companies.

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