A Police Ombudsman investigation has rejected claims that police used excessive force while responding to a report that a “very drunk” man was wheeling a toddler in a buggy at a Belfast play park.
The man claimed police officers had held him on the ground – one kneeling on his back, another standing on his ankles and another holding his legs, until a police van arrived to take him to custody. The incident happened in August 2015.
The man, who claimed not to have been drunk but admitted having been drinking the night before, said he became angry when police laughed at him after he had been arrested and placed in a police car.
He said he tried to get out of the car, but the door handle came off in his hand, and he was then removed from the car and pinned down by three officers until a police van arrived.
The man also complained that he was not breathalysed during the incident and had therefore not been given an opportunity to prove he was not intoxicated.
A Police Ombudsman investigator interviewed the officers involved. They said they approached the man after receiving a report that a child might be at risk.
They said he smelt of alcohol and his speech was slurred, and he was asked to provide a breath test to resolve the issue. He refused and officers said they had no power to demand that a sample be provided.
They said the man then became irate and started shouting and swearing, causing a large number of other parents and children in the park to move away.
After placing the man in the police car, officers said he tried repeatedly to get out, pulling at the door handle until it broke off, and punching a window.
They said he was then removed from the vehicle and restrained on the ground, but continued to lash out, so handcuffs and leg restraints were applied.
The officers said he was restrained with his back against a wheel of the police car and denied kneeling on the man’s back or standing on his ankles. A medical examination also found no evidence to support these claims.
The officers added that the man continued to be disruptive when placed in a police van, and repeatedly head butted the sides of the van while being taken to Musgrave Custody Suite in Belfast city centre.
His child was placed in the temporary care of a neighbour, after appropriate checks had been conducted on police systems and with social workers.
The Police Ombudsman investigator concluded that the force used by police had been reasonable and proportionate given the man’s behaviour during the incident.