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Caution for off-duty police officer who punched man in pub

By Deborah McAleese

Published 08/01/2016

The off-duty officer was being escorted out of the premises by bar staff for being “drunk and aggressive” when he assaulted the man
The off-duty officer was being escorted out of the premises by bar staff for being “drunk and aggressive” when he assaulted the man

A PSNI officer has been cautioned for drunkenly punching a man in the face during a night out in a Belfast bar.

The off-duty officer was being escorted out of the premises by bar staff for being "drunk and aggressive" when he assaulted the man.

An investigation into allegations of assault was launched by the Police Ombudsman following a complaint from the officer's victim.

He said the policeman was drunk and aggressive and had been escorted from the premises by door staff, but was trying to get back in to get his coat.

The victim claimed he intervened to try to defuse 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.

The complainant said the officer was then restrained on the ground by bar staff, while the bar manager reported the incident to police.

He added that the PSNI man threatened him, saying, "You're in a world of hurt" and "you think you're safe, wait until later".

However, there was insufficient evidence to support an allegation of threats.

During the probe it emerged that the officer had unlawfully accessed information on a police computer.

He denied assault while being interviewed under caution and that he was annoyed at having been manhandled by bar staff.

He also felt the doormen were unreasonable in not allowing him to retrieve his coat.

The officer said he was stopped from going back into the bar to get his jacket and put his hands up to stop staff grabbing him. He told how he had his key in his hand and said it was possible that it had flipped out and struck the complainant, but if it had it was accidental.

He accepted, however, that he had unlawfully accessed information on a police computer system.

After reviewing CCTV footage and interviewing bar staff, the Ombudsman investigator forwarded a file to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

The PPS found that the evidence supported the victim's allegations of assault and that the officer had unlawfully accessed information on a police computer.

After consultation with the PPS, the PSNI man accepted an adult caution.

The PPS found insufficient evidence to support the complainant's allegations that the officer had threatened him.

A caution is a formal reprimand by police. Although it is not a conviction, it will be recorded on the officer's criminal record for five years.

The officer has also been disciplined by the PSNI over the two incidents.

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