Assault claims against police and custody officers rejected

Published Date: 22.05.2018

A man who was found to have two fractured wrists after his arrest and detention in custody has had a complaint against police officers and civilian detention officers (CDOs) rejected by the Police Ombudsman.

The man, who was arrested in west Belfast in April last year, claimed to have sustained injuries to his neck and shoulders after being restrained and carried into custody, and alleged that police were heavy handed during his arrest. He was later found to have small fractures in both his wrists.

The complainant, who was arrested after an altercation at the family home, had suffered a minor head wound before his arrest and had initially been taken to hospital during which time he was handcuffed. The day after his arrest and while still in custody he was taken back to hospital after complaining of pains in his arms. There, he was found to have a fracture in each of his wrists and tenderness to his shoulder.

The nature of his injuries required criminal interviews of the accused police officers and CDOs, all of whom denied the allegations against them.

Three police officers who had been present at the hospital told investigators that the detainee had become aggressive and had had to be restrained on a hospital bed. Handcuffs had been applied, they said, as the man attempted to bite and kick officers. Body worn video recorded by one of the officers showed the man screaming for the handcuffs to be removed but did not show him being handcuffed.

The man’s custody record indicated that he had previously self-harmed in custody by running into doors and walls, whilst medical records detailed the man telling hospital staff that he had previously been assaulted by unknown individuals.

Police documentation also noted that he had been involved in an altercation prior to police arrival at his home and that he had fallen on to his shoulder in hospital after bending over to tie his shoelace.

The man’s claims that he had been carried and manhandled whilst being taken into custody were contradicted by CCTV footage which showed just one police officer escorting him through the custody suite by the arm.

A review of CCTV footage covering the period of his detention did show the use of force by CDOs which had been documented in custody records. This occurred after the detainee had been allowed out of his cell to use the phone and had refused to return. Two CDOs, who said they had applied arm locks to the man, said the techniques used were in accordance with their training. Their initial taking hold of the man was not captured on CCTV as the man was out of view of the camera. However a CDO can be heard encouraging him to return to his cell before the CDOs physically intervened.

A report on the criminal investigation was forwarded to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) who directed no prosecution of any police officer or CDO.

A subsequent misconduct review by Ombudsman investigators found no grounds on which to recommend disciplinary proceedings against any of the accused.

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