Northern Ireland

PSNI officer cautioned for punching man in Belfast pub

A policeman has been cautioned for punching a man in the face in a Belfast pub and for unlawfully accessing information on police computer systems.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer was off-duty at the time of the offence in August 2014.

The victim complained to the Police Ombudsman that he was punched while bar staff were trying to escort the "drunk and aggressive" officer out of the pub.

Ombudsman investigators found the officer had carried out the assault.

They sent a file to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS), and prosecutors agreed that the evidence supported the allegations that the officer had assaulted the victim and made inappropriate use of police systems.

The victim also claimed that the officer had threatened him before the attack, by telling him that he was a policeman and allegedly saying: "You're in a world of hurt" and "you think you're safe, wait until later".

However, the PPS concluded there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations that the officer had threatened the victim.

Disciplined

The attack took place in a city centre bar and the victim told Police Ombudsman investigators that he witnessed the officer being aggressive when staff would not let him back in to collect his coat.

The victim said he intervened to try to diffuse the situation, but the officer refused to calm down and came towards him with a car key in his hand, told him he was a police officer and then punched him.

When he was interviewed by Police Ombudsman investigators, the officer denied assault but accepted he had unlawfully accessed information on a police computer system.

He said the bar staff had manhandled him and he had put his hands up to stop them grabbing him. He said had his key in his hand and it was possible that it had accidentally flipped out and struck the victim.

CCTV footage from within the pub showed that the officer had left the bar of his own accord, but did not show the punch being thrown.

Prosecutors offered the officer the option of an adult caution for the offences, which he accepted.

He was also disciplined by the PSNI for breaching the police Code of Ethics, following a recommendation by the Police Ombudsman.