Police Ombudsman rejects allegation that officers used excessive force against vulnerable woman

Incident Date: 01.01.2017

The Police Ombudsman has rejected a complaint that police officers used excessive force against a vulnerable woman during an incident in Belfast earlier this year.

She alleged that officers had twice pushed her against a wall to search her, had “goaded” her, and had also put her in the back of a “police van” despite knowing that this made her fearful.

The woman explained that she had been involved in a fight and had been trying to clear her head when police intervened.

She admitted that she had self-harmed before the officers spoke to her, but said no one had seen her doing it. She also accepted that at one point she had climbed up onto a fence at the edge of the River Lagan and that security staff and volunteers from a local charity had asked her if she was OK.

CCTV footage of the incident viewed by a Police Ombudsman investigator showed that police arrived a short time later.

Officers said they were concerned for the woman's safety and wanted to do what was best for her.

Officers were seen looking at the woman’s hands, and when later interviewed said that they had been looking for any item that she might have used to harm herself.

She was then taken to a less public area beside a building and placed, but not pushed, against a wall before being searched. Male officers stood to the side while the search was conducted by female colleagues.

The officers involved said they were concerned for the woman’s safety and wanted to do what was best for her, which involved being firm to ensure the removal of any dangerous items.

Officers also accompanied the woman in the back of a police Land Rover as she was taken to hospital for treatment.

The Police Ombudsman investigator concluded that police had used the minimum level of force necessary to ensure the woman received appropriate treatment.

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