Cop ‘justified in punching man’

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A police officer was justified in punching a man in Portrush who had attacked a woman with a metal bar, according to a watchdog.

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire found that appropriate force was deployed and the officer should not be prosecuted or disciplined.

Dr Maguire said: “Man A was subjecting a defenceless female to a serious assault.

“She was in considerable danger and there is no doubt immediate action was required to prevent her sustaining further injuries or worse.”

The incident, which happened in Portrush during the early hours of Sunday June 26 2011, was captured on CCTV.

It showed a vicious attack during which Man A hit the woman a number of times with the bar. Another female also appeared to join in the assault.

The footage also showed the policeman punching the culprit three times in the head before he was arrested.

The ombudsman was called in to investigate after another officer raised concerns about the level of force used.

During interviews the policeman said his immediate aim had been to stop the attack. He maintained his actions were reasonable, proportionate and the least lethal option available at that time.

He claimed to have been punched in the face by Man A and said he reacted by punching him twice to the head – contrary to video evidence which showed three punches being thrown by the officer.

The Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, noted that the CCTV footage was inconclusive as to whether man did strike out first, as claimed by the officer.

However, he said the footage did clearly show that the man was involved in previous fighting and had committed a serious assault on a female.

A report written by a police doctor showed that the PSNI man had reported being punched and had tenderness to his face and mouth.

Several attempts were made to contact Man A, but he failed to assist the Police Ombudsman’s inquiries.