Published Date: 21.02.2017
A Police Ombudsman investigation has cleared a police officer of causing “possible lifelong injuries” to a man by closing handcuffs so tightly that he suffered “suspected nerve damage”.
The man said he had been left with no feelings in his thumbs or first fingers and was still attending hospital, after the officer “squeezed as tightly as he could” while closing the handcuffs. The incident happened as he was being arrested in Larne last August.
He said he had “begged and begged” for the handcuffs to be loosened while being transported in a police cell van to a custody suite in Belfast, but his pleas were ignored.
He recalled his hands going numb and hearing the two officers in the van laughing.
He also alleged that an officer refused him permission to use the toilet before he was placed in the van.
A Police Ombudsman investigator obtained accounts from the officers involved, as well as an independent witness who had seen the arrest.
This witness said the man had been struggling with police as he was being taken to the cell van, and said he then heard banging from inside the van and an officer asking the man to stop.
The witness added that none of the officers had acted inappropriately during the arrest.
Independent witness said officers had not acted inappropriately during the man's arrest.
The officer who applied the handcuffs said he had complied with police procedures, checking them for tightness and double locking them.
A report by a police doctor who examined the man noted that there were marks on a number of places on his arms.
The Police Ombudsman investigator said this suggested that the handcuffs had had a degree of movement, rather than having been locked tightly in one place.
Other medical evidence suggested that the man may have sustained injuries to his wrists months previously.
Witnesses also recalled that the man had been offered the use of a nearby bathroom, but had refused and asked to use one upstairs.
He was advised that he would be unable to fully close the door as he was under arrest, and witnesses recalled that the toilet he was offered would have provided adequate privacy as there was no one else in the area.
The investigator also noted that the man did not specifically allege that the officers had been laughing at him, simply that they had been laughing.
She concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support disciplinary action against any officer and closed the man’s complaint as unsubstantiated.