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Officer who slapped cuffed woman across face in back of police vehicle disciplined

By Deborah McAleese

Published 10/02/2016

A PSNI officer has been disciplined for slapping a handcuffed woman across the face
A PSNI officer has been disciplined for slapping a handcuffed woman across the face

A PSNI officer has been disciplined for slapping a handcuffed woman across the face.

The woman was in the back of a PSNI Land Rover after being arrested for assaulting police when she was struck by the officer.

The officer denied hitting the woman - but the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland said there was "sufficient evidence" to back up her claim.

A file was sent by the independent policing watchdog to the Public Prosecution Service about the incident, but a decision was taken not to prosecute the officer.

The woman was arrested in Dunmurry in August 2013.

She told an Ombudsman investigator she was sitting on a bench in the back of the Land Rover, handcuffed to the rear and with her feet on the bench opposite, when the officer swiped her feet off the bench and slapped her once across the cheek.

The woman, who accepted that she was drunk at the time, admitted that she then tried to hit the officer back.

Her sister and a member of the public told the investigator that while the rear door of the Land Rover had been closed over and they could not see what happened, they both heard the woman shout out about being hit.

The driver of the Land Rover said he had not seen the incident, but remembered the officer stating that he had been headbutted and kicked by the woman, and the woman saying she had been struck.

Another officer said he was walking towards the Land Rover and could hear a female screaming but could not recall what she was saying.

He said he opened the door of the vehicle to see the woman trying to headbutt his colleague.

Security camera footage from the police station where the woman was taken following the incident was retrieved by the Ombudsman's office.

According to the Ombudsman report, the woman can be heard on the footage making numerous references to being slapped by the officer.

She also told her solicitor: "He hit me and I hit him back."

The woman later told a police doctor that she had been slapped across the face.

When interviewed, the officer denied having slapped the woman.

He said that he had only pushed her by the shoulder back onto her seat after she had first attacked him.

However, the Police Ombudsman investigator concluded that there was sufficient evidence, on the balance of probabilities, to support the woman's allegation that she had been slapped by the officer.

The PSNI has since disciplined the officer involved.

The level of discipline has not been revealed.

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