PSNI Civilian Detention Officer dismissed after assault conviction

Published Date: 14.03.2024

A PSNI Civilian Detention Officer has been dismissed from the police after receiving a suspended prison sentence for assaulting a detainee in the custody suite at Musgrave Police Station in Belfast.

It follows an investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office which found that the police employee had twice used his knee to strike the man to the face, causing an injury to an eye and a bleed from his nose.

The Civilian Detention Officer was subsequently convicted of common assault and sentenced to four months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months.

The incident happened in May 2020, after the detainee had been arrested on suspicion of breaching his bail conditions and assaulting police.

Police Ombudsman, Mrs Marie Anderson, said: “This was a volatile situation, but it was also a serious and unwarranted assault on a man who was intoxicated. Police detainees are often vulnerable and distressed, and this type of behaviour has no place in custody suites.”

She commended another Civilian Detention Officer (CDO) who raised concerns about the incident with his supervisor and custody sergeant, which resulted in the matter being notified to her by the PSNI.

“His actions demonstrated courage and integrity,” said Mrs Anderson. “Importantly, the custody sergeant viewed the CCTV footage to confirm what had happened. His actions are evidence of the importance of the custody sergeant role.”

Police Ombudsman investigators obtained CCTV footage from the custody suite which showed that the detainee had been taken to a search room by the two CDOs who suspected that he may have hidden drugs on his person.

After the man threatened to head butt the detention officers, the now former CDO used his forearm to “slam” him against a wall.

The other CDO, who was dealing with the man’s property, then rushed to assist and the man was taken to the ground. The assault happened as the CDOs held on to his arms and head and tried to apply handcuffs.

An audible pop could be heard on the CCTV footage as the blows connected. A police sergeant later told Police Ombudsman investigators that the incident made for uncomfortable viewing.

When interviewed about the incident, the now former CDO said the detainee had a history of spitting at police staff, and said he had used force to prevent him doing so again.

He said he chose to use his knee, rather than striking the man with his open hand or fist, as his trousers had a large foam pad at the knee and he considered it to be the “lesser of two evils.”

However, Police Ombudsman investigators noted that the assault occurred when the man’s arms and head had been restrained and he posed little threat. 

After the CDO’s conviction, the Police Ombudsman reviewed the incident for misconduct and recommended that the PSNI should hold a misconduct hearing. The CDO was subsequently dismissed from the PSNI.
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