Belfast Telegraph

PSNI officer avoids jail for attack on student

By Deborah McAleese

A shamed PSNI officer has avoided a jail sentence after being found guilty of kicking a student in the head during a vicious attack outside a bar.

His victim - who is the son of the former boss of the UK's child protection police unit, Jim Gamble - was knocked unconscious and sustained a broken nose and numerous facial injuries during the assault.

Constable Aaron Andrew Breen (28) received an 18-month suspended prison sentence at Antrim Crown Court this week for the attack on 23-year-old Peter Gamble.

He was found guilty by a jury of assaulting Mr Gamble occasioning him actual bodily harm.

Breen is expected to be dismissed from the PSNI after an internal disciplinary hearing.

Mr Gamble - whose father is the ex-chief executive of the Child Exploitation and On-line Protection Centre (CEOP) and former head of Special Branch in Northern Ireland - was on a visit home from university in England when Breen attacked him following an altercation outside a bar in Dunadry, Co Antrim, on July 12, 2008.

Breen, who was off-duty at the time, knocked Mr Gamble over and kicked him in the head as he lay unconscious on the ground. The Templepatrick police officer denied assaulting Mr Gamble, however an eye-witness identified him as the attacker.

Breen was suspended from the PSNI while criminal proceedings were ongoing. He will now face an internal misconduct hearing, after which he will most likely be dismissed. The PSNI said it cannot comment on individual cases, however a spokesman said the Police Service "expects its staff to behave professionally, ethically and with the utmost integrity at all times".

The Belfast Telegraph understands Breen had been the subject of another complaint of violence on a member of the public before the 2008 attack on Mr Gamble. It was alleged he misused his police-issued baton on a prisoner while he was on duty. Breen was placed on desk duty while the matter was investigated, but was put back on full duties after the complaint was not upheld.

Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said it is important that the PSNI protects its reputation by dealing robustly with officers who break the law.

"The PSNI cannot enforce the law with regard to others and not do the same itself," he said.

Background

Any officer convicted of a criminal offence or suspected of misconduct faces an internal disciplinary hearing where they can be dismissed, forced to resign, have their pay reduced or demoted.

From 2008 to 2010 the PSNI held 115 misconduct hearings.

During that time seven officers were dismissed for offences including sex offences, drink-driving and theft. Another 19 officers resigned for other offences.

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