08/02/2019

Police Ombudsman: Officer 'Too Quick' To Use Baton In L'Derry Incident

A probe by the Police Ombudsman's office has found that a PSNI officer was "too quick" to use his baton in a L'Derry incident last year, when he struck a man several times without warning.

The complaint was lodged in relation to an altercation in the city in March 2018, by a man who was struck repeatedly on the leg while he tried to restrain his friend during a street disturbance.

The aggrieved man said the officer did not ask what was happening before using unnecessary and excessive force which had caused nerve damage to his leg. 

Police Ombudsman investigators reviewed all police documentation about the incident, as well as radio transmissions, city centre CCTV footage and police Body Worn Video (BWV) recorded by an officer at the scene. Statements were taken from two witnesses.

When interviewed, the officer admitted hitting the man several times but denied assault or using excessive force. He insisted his actions were reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances, and said he gave a warning before using his baton.
News Image
CCTV footage showed police arriving at the scene and two officers running towards the melee, one with his baton already drawn and extended.

His colleague tried to separate the men, but he immediately used his baton to strike the complainant three times. He told investigators he had done this as the first two strikes had not forced the man to release the headlock.

The baton strikes were not captured on the BWV footage, but some of the events afterwards were recorded. The man was seen limping and explaining that it had been a fight between friends.

Two witnesses said they had seen the officer strike the man several times, but neither had heard any warning being given. Both felt that the officer's actions were excessive and said the situation could have been dealt with without such force.

A doctor who examined the man the day after the incident found no evidence of nerve damage.

Police Ombudsman investigators concluded that the officer had resorted to the use of force too quickly without issuing a warning. They noted that his colleague had not used any force when faced with the same situation.

A performance recommendation was made to the PSNI which has since been acted upon.



(JG/CM)

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

28 March 2007
House of Lords vote for ‘50/50’ police force
The House of Lords has renewed the 50/50 recruitment rule for the PSNI by a majority of 44. It puts into practice a recommendation made in 1999 by Lord Patten that the local police force should be split evenly between Catholics and Protestants. The result of the vote was 141 to 97.
11 June 2015
Police Officer Disciplined For Shooting A Man And Using Excessive Force
A police officer has been disciplined for using excessive force after he shot a man as he fled after abandoning a stolen car. It follows a Police Ombudsman investigation into the use of live fire during the incident, which happened in Gilford, Co Down, on 18 July 2009.
03 December 2015
Two Officers Disciplined For Failing To Fully Investigate Attack On Woman
Two police officers have been disciplined for failing to properly investigate an attack on a woman in L'Derry in 2014, following an investigation by the Police Ombudsman. The victim reported that a man had punched her in the face in an apparently unprovoked attack after she left a bar in the early hours of the morning.
07 January 2016
Police Officer Given Adult Caution For Bar Assault
A police officer assaulted a man at a bar while off-duty and unlawfully accessed information on police computer systems, according to a Police Ombudsman investigation. The officer was given an adult caution after he was found to have punched a man in the face during an argument at a bar in Belfast city centre in August 2014.
06 August 2014
Police Vehicle Contracts Arrest - Man Released
A 54-year-old member of police staff who was arrested in County Antrim as part of ongoing investigations into the awarding of vehicle contracts has been released. The man was arrested on suspicion of misconduct in public office and has been taken to a police station in Belfast for questioning.