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Caution for off-duty police officer who punched man outside Belfast bar

Published 07/01/2016

The officer was also disciplined for breaching the Police Service of Northern Ireland code of ethics
The officer was also disciplined for breaching the Police Service of Northern Ireland code of ethics

An off-duty police officer has been cautioned for punching a man outside a Belfast bar.

The officer, who admitted unlawfully accessing information on a police computer system, was also disciplined for breaching the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) code of ethics.

A complaint about the incident in Belfast city centre in August 2014 was lodged with the Police Ombudsman.

It was claimed the officer said he was a policeman before striking the man on the nose. It was also alleged he issued threats, saying , "You're in a world of hurt" and "you think you're safe, wait until later".

During interview, the officer denied assault. He said he was annoyed at having been manhandled by bar staff, whom he felt were unreasonable in preventing him from retrieving his coat.

The officer claimed to have put his hands up to prevent being grabbed and a key, which was in his hand at the time, may have accidentally flipped out and struck the complainant.

He accepted that he unlawfully accessed information on the PSNI's computer system.

As part of the ombudsman's probe, statements were taken from bar staff, CCTV was viewed and police records of the incident were examined.

The PSNI's discipline branch also contacted the ombudsman to advise of concerns that the officer may have unlawfully accessed information on a police computer.

A file was sent to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) which found evidence to support the allegations of assault, and that the officer had made inappropriate use of police systems.

There was insufficient evidence to support the complainant's claim that he had been threatened.

After consultation, the PPS offered the officer an adult caution for the offences, which he accepted.

The ombudsman's disciplinary recommendation has also been implemented by the PSNI.

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