Officers were justified in drawing guns on driver after pursuit

Incident Date: Feb 2017

An investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office has found that police officers were justified in aiming their guns at a driver after a pursuit in north Down.

The driver lodged a complaint that the officers’ use of firearms during the incident, which happened near Newtownards in February last year, was oppressive, unjustified and had caused him considerable distress. 

However, in accounts provided to the Police Ombudsman’s Office, the officers involved said they had drawn their weapons as they feared for their safety – given that the driver had failed to stop and was continuing to edge his vehicle towards them.

They explained that the incident had begun when the driver overtook them at high speed on a bend on the Portaferry Road.

They described activating their vehicle’s blue flashing lights and sirens and pursuing the car for around three to four miles before it finally slowed down and pulled over.

However, as an officer approached the vehicle, they said it drove off, forcing them to again give chase and bring it to a stop by positioning their vehicle diagonally across the road in front of it.

Even then, as both officers walked towards the vehicle, they said the driver continued to edge the car towards them. They then drew their guns in response to the threat they perceived him to pose.

The officers said they had re-holstered their weapons as soon as the driver had complied with their instructions by stopping the car, turning off the engine and showing his hands.

Police radio transmissions relating to the incident were reviewed by the Police Ombudsman investigator and found to corroborate the officers’ accounts.

The Police Ombudsman investigator concluded that there was no evidence of any misconduct by ether of the officers involved.

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