Published Date: 04.09.2018
Police officers accused of assault by a man involved in an altercation outside a Belfast hotel have been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Police Ombudsman’s Office.
The man, who was subsequently arrested and convicted of disorderly behaviour in connection with the incident, had accused officers of stamping on his foot, misusing CS Spray and causing further injury to his foot by dragging him into a police vehicle. He also claimed that he was denied medical attention whilst in custody.
The man told Police Ombudsman investigators that on leaving the hotel he had been assaulted by another male and knocked to the ground. He said when police arrived he had attempted to explain what had happened but was struck with a baton by one officer.
As he attempted to get off the ground, fearing another attack by his assailant, he was then sprayed with CS Spray by the same officer, he said.
The man, who admitted to being verbally abusive but denied being aggressive, added that after being restrained by police, he was stamped on the foot. This injury was made worse, he claimed, after officers dragged him into the police vehicle. He further claimed that he was denied medical attention for his injuries when taken into custody.
However Police Ombudsman investigators who, as well as reviewing all relevant police documentation, visited the scene, reviewed CCTV footage and took witness statements from paramedics, found that police had used an appropriate level of force given the situation.
CCTV footage captured two police officers intervening in the altercation outside the hotel and the complainant striking out before being brought to ground by the police and restrained. The man is then seen to get up off the ground and lashing out again before being restrained and escorted to an ambulance. The footage does show the man limping but did not cover his being taken from the ambulance to the police vehicle.
A paramedic who treated the man said he was aggressive and irate but other than a cut lip he did not report any injuries.
In his statement to investigators, the officer accused of striking the man said he witnessed him punch another man to the head and had pushed him away, drew his baton and ordered him to stand back. The man had then challenged the officer before another male approached and pushed him to the ground. When he got up, he again challenged the officer who then withdrew his CS Spray and sprayed him.
The officer also denied that the man had been dragged into the police vehicle saying he had to be carried from the ambulance after ‘dead-weighting’ himself.
Investigators also found that despite the man’s claims of improper medical attention, his custody records showed that he was examined by a doctor an hour after being detained, the following morning and again that afternoon and was deemed fit to be detained and then released.
The Police Ombudsman found that the use of force was in accordance with police guidelines and there was no evidence to suggest he was denied appropriate levels of care during his detention.