Published Date: 09.02.2016
An investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office has resulted in a police officer being disciplined for slapping a woman across the face in the back of a police Land Rover.
The incident happened in Dunmurry in August 2013 after the woman was arrested for assaulting police.
She said she was sitting on a bench in the back of the Land Rover, handcuffed to the rear and with her feet on the bench opposite, when the officer swiped her feet off the bench and slapped her once across the cheek.
The woman, who accepted that she was drunk at the time, admitted that she then tried to hit the officer back.
A Police Ombudsman investigator obtained all relevant police documentation, and interviewed police officers and members of the public who were in the area at the time.
The woman’s sister and a member of the public said that while the rear door of the Land Rover had been closed over and they could not see what happened, they both heard the woman shout out about being hit.
The driver of the Land Rover said he had not seen the incident, but remembered the officer stating that he had been headbutted and kicked by the woman, and the woman saying she had been struck.
Another officer said he was walking towards the Land Rover and could hear a female screaming but could not recall what she was saying. He said he opened the door of the vehicle to see the woman trying to headbutt his colleague.
CCTV footage from the police station where the woman was taken following the incident was retrieved. The woman can be heard on the footage making numerous references to being slapped by the officer.
She also told her solicitor “He hit me and I hit him back”, and later told a police doctor that she had been slapped across the face.
When interviewed, the officer denied having slapped the woman, and said he had pushed her by the shoulder back onto her seat after she had attacked him.
A file was sent to the Public Prosecution Service which directed that there was insufficient evidence to warrant a prosecution of the officer.
The Police Ombudsman investigator then considered the case against the lower evidential threshold for misconduct. She concluded that there was sufficient evidence, on the balance of probabilities, to support the woman’s allegation that she had been slapped by the officer.
The PSNI has since disciplined the officer involved.