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Officer whose jaw was broken by thug at public event sues PSNI for failing to protect her

By Deborah McAleese

Published 28/09/2015

The PSNI officer and her injuries
The PSNI officer and her injuries

A female police officer, punched unconscious during violent clashes at a public event is to sue the PSNI for allegedly failing to protect her.

The officer, who was hospitalised for three days with head injuries, has claimed that the police service did not deploy enough resources to deal with the trouble, despite several requests for back-up.

Officers were policing a Halloween event in Antrim last year, attended by 3,000 people, when a number of fights broke out.

It has been claimed that several calls for police back-up were made, but no extra manpower was deployed to assist the 14 officers on duty.

An overtime request for four of the officers to remain on duty when their shift ended was allegedly refused by bosses, leaving just nine officers at the scene.

A short time later the female officer was punched on the side of the head and knocked unconscious as she attempted to break up a fight.

The mother-of-two spent three days in hospital with concussion and a cracked jaw and has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

She has launched legal proceedings, with the assistance of the Police Federation, against the PSNI, alleging a failure in its duty of care.

The PSNI said it could not comment on the case as legal proceedings were ongoing.

It is understood however that senior officers felt there was enough manpower in the area to police the event.

The Police Federation, the body that represents rank-and-file officers, said it did not comment on specific cases but added that it "robustly supports all officers who have legitimate cases".

According to a police source six calls for assistance were made within the space of one hour that evening.

"There was even a request for TSG (Tactical Support Groups, which are specialist public order police) but they were too far away. And to make it worse, at 9pm some officers were finishing work so they had to get overtime approved but it was declined and they were sent home," the source said.

The source added: "Half an hour later the officer was getting out of a car to break up the fight when she was knocked out by a punch to the side of her head."

The case has once again raised concern over manpower levels within the PSNI. Police chiefs have said that an additional 180 officers are needed to maintain operational resilience.

However, the Police Federation has said an extra 800 officers were needed to bring the organisation up to the level recommended in the Patten Report.

Officer numbers have dropped to 6,780. A PSNI review found that 6,963 officers were needed to maintain operational resilience. The Patten report recommended 7,500 officers.

Police bosses insist that the organisation remains "well-equipped, effective and efficient".

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