Officer justified in holding man’s head against window to prevent spitting

Published Date: Dec 2016

An investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office has found a police officer was justified in holding a man’s head against the window of a police car to prevent him spitting.

The man complained that the officer had without warning struck his head against the window and then caused him to choke by continuing to press on his head and neck.

He also alleged that when the police car pulled over a while later and he turned to speak to the officer, his head was again forced against the window. He alleged the officer said to him: “don’t spit at me, don’t look at me.”

The incident happened in February as the man was being taken to Lurgan police station after being arrested on suspicion of assaulting a female in south Down.

When interviewed by a Police Ombudsman investigator, the officer said the man was intoxicated and aggressive, and had made a number of allegations and threats during the journey.

Officer "firmly believed" he was going to be spat on.

He said he “firmly believed” he was going to be spat at and in order to prevent this he told the man to look away from him and held his head against the window of the car for a time. However, he denied at any stage having struck the man’s head against the window.

He also denied that he had caused the man to choke, and said that when the man calmed down he released his head and later removed his handcuffs.

The officer’s account was corroborated by the officer who had been driving the car. He said the man had been intoxicated and difficult and although he had not seen him spitting, he heard his colleague telling him not to before pushing his face away.

He said that the man’s head had not been struck against the window, and neither had he been subjected to any other kind of assault.

Notes written by a police doctor after the man was examined in police custody made no mention of any head or neck injuries.

Having reviewed the evidence, the Police Ombudsman investigator found insufficient evidence for any misconduct action.

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