13/02/2019

No Police Wrongdoing In Belfast Hostel Incident- Ombudsman

A police officer accused of assaulting a man outside a hostel in Belfast has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Police Ombudsman's office.

A complaint was lodged after an incident in May last year, when two officers attended the hostel in Belfast City Centre on an unrelated matter.

One was accused of "swiping the feet from under" the complainant and knocking him to the ground, before lifting him by the handcuffs, taking him to the ground again and forcibly holding him down by pressing his knee into his temple.

The man added that after he was placed in a cell van to be transported, the same officer held his head to the floor once again.

As part of their investigations Police Ombudsman staff reviewed CCTV footage of the area which covered the entirety of the incident outside the hostel. Investigators also took a statement from a staff member who had witnessed the event before formally interviewing the officer in question.

The CCTV footage highlighted several inconsistencies in the account given by the complainant who said he had been arrested by uniformed officers and placed in a cell van. The footage showed that they were in plain clothes and he had been placed in a Land Rover.
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It was also clear that the man had been acting aggressively and may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol as he was unsteady on his feet and at one stage had walked into the road causing passing vehicles to brake.

A hostel staff member who witnessed the incident said the man had been refused entry but had then tried to push past the two officers who had been dealing with a separate issue. He said that the man had been aggressive and that a struggle had ensued when the officers went to arrest him but he did not believe that excessive force had been used.

During formal interview with Police Ombudsman staff the police officer denied assaulting the man. He said that as the man had been acting aggressively he had held his arms to prevent an assault. He was then taken to the ground where he was handcuffed and restrained until other officers arrived. He added that due to the man's continued aggression, leg restraints were applied before he was placed in the police Land Rover.

As assault is a criminal allegation, a file was sent to the Public Prosecution Service who directed no prosecution.

A review of the evidence showed no misconduct on the part of the officer who had fully justified his use of force and whose account had been corroborated by CCTV footage.

The case was subsequently closed.



(JG/CM)

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