Officer who punched man in face cleared of misconduct

Published Date: 18.12.2018

A police officer who punched a man in the face during his arrest, breaking his tooth and causing lacerations to his mouth, has been cleared of misconduct by the Police Ombudsman’s Office.

The man, who made a complaint of oppressive behaviour against the officer, said he was punched about the face and head whilst he was hiding in a cubby hole in a house in County Down in April. He also claimed to have suffered a sore chin, a black eye, and bruising to his forehead and left ear during the alleged assault. 

As part of their investigation, Police Ombudsman staff examined custody records, photographs and medical forms; police officers’ notebook entries and body worn video, and external medical and dental records. The officer concerned was also questioned under criminal caution.

There was no body worn video footage of the actual incident.

However, a video was recorded by officers in another room of the house on which the man could be heard shouting and another male saying ‘don’t be hitting my friend’. This man did not come forward to make a witness statement.

The police officer accused of assault admitted hitting the man in the face, but said he had done so after this person had approached him aggressively at the top of the stairs.  The officer, who was accompanied by a colleague, said the strike was designed to stun the man and avoid an altercation that could have knocked both of them down the stairs. The constable’s account was corroborated by his colleague.

A forensic medical officer who examined the constable after the incident found that injuries to his hand were consistent with a ‘one strike’ mark.

Custody records showed that the man declined to attend the medical room and was instead taken to A&E where the examining doctor noted small cuts to the mouth and ‘mild tenderness’ to the jaw.

A dental surgeon the man attended following his release confirmed that a fractured tooth had to be extracted, but said no other teeth were loose.

The Police Ombudsman investigators concluded that the available evidence did not back up the man’s claims of being struck several times.
They concluded that there was no evidence to show that the police officer had used excessive or unreasonable force.
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