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Officers cleared of assaulting man during arrest

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A Police Ombudsman investigation has rejected claims that police punched and kicked a man when he was arrested at his home in Enniskillen last July.

The man’s family alleged that he was grabbed in a headlock and trailed into the garden, where he was thrown to the ground before two officers punched and kicked him and struck him with a baton.

He was then handcuffed, and the man later complained that the handcuffs had been put on too tightly. He also said an officer tightened them further when he complained.

Police Ombudsman investigators took statements from five civilian witnesses, interviewed the officers involved and reviewed police documentation. This included a report from the police doctor who examined the man in custody following the incident.

The evidence from civilian witnesses was found to be inconsistent and was not supported by the evidence from the medical examination.

Only two of the five witnesses said the man had been punched by a male officer. One mentioned a number of punches to the man’s stomach, the other stated there had been a single punch to the face. A single witness said the officer had struck the man with a baton, although the man himself did not mention this.

Descriptions of the actions of a female officer also differed. One witness said the officer had punched the man, while two said they had seen her using her knee against him, though their descriptions of the incident differed.

Both officers denied having punched or struck the man, and stated that they had simply restrained and handcuffed him as he had been aggressive and had resisted arrest.

Their accounts were supported by medical evidence. The only injuries noted by the doctor were superficial marks to the man’s wrists, forearms and back, and the only injuries he himself mentioned were to his wrists. There were no marks to his neck or face, or any marks to suggest he had been punched, kicked or struck with a baton.

The male officer accepted that he had at one point held the man in a headlock. He said this happened when the man appeared ready to make off and lasted “a matter of seconds” until his arms were restrained.

The Police Ombudsman investigator concluded that there was insufficient evidence that the level of force used by officers during the incident was excessive.

She also pointed out that the doctor had found the injuries to the man’s wrists to be consistent with him having struggled while wearing the handcuffs, rather than them having been applied too tightly.

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