Belfast Telegraph

PSNI officer cleared of assaulting prisoner

By Eamonn MacDermott

A member of the PSNI who was accused of assaulting a man in custody has been cleared at Londonderry Magistrates Court.

Richard Clarke, whose address was c/o PSNI Strand Road, had been charged with assaulting the man on June 16 last year.

In court yesterday CCTV footage was shown in which the detainee is seen refusing to go to his cell. Judge Barney McElholm said that the CCTV showed the man being "truculent and aggressive" and it was clear "he did not want to go down to the cell".

In response to questions from defence barrister Eoghan Devlin, Mr Clarke said he had been warned by the man's solicitor that if he had to spend the night in custody "he would kick off".

The defendant said that after being photographed and fingerprinted the man acted aggressively and when custody officers tried to get him to go to his cell he resisted, grabbing hold of a door handle.

The officer said: "I have taken him into custody before and he has anger issues and he is aggressive, he is violent."

The court was told that initially there were three custody officers and Mr Clarke went to their assistance.

He told the court: "When I released him he turned and squared up to me and made a fist in his left hand.

"I thought I was going to be assaulted and I forced him on to the bed. I could have administered an open-handed slap but I feared if I did his head would hit the wall.

"I released him on the bed when I was satisfied I was not at risk and that he was not at risk."

Under cross-examination, Mr Clarke said if the man had gone to his cell when asked there would not have been any problems.

He agreed with the prosecution that the man had to be put into his cell but denied grabbing him by the throat. Mr Clarke said he had placed his hand on the man's shoulder and grabbed his arm with his other hand. It was suggested that the force used was "excessive" but Mr Clarke rejected this.

It was also put to him that he had lost his temper and "did not use reasonable force - you used excessive force". Mr Clarke replied: "Definitely not."

Judge McElholm said he had previous experience of the man involved. He said that he had a tendency to get violent. The judge said it was clear from the CCTV the man had "planted himself" and was not going to the cell.

He said the man has "started off truculent but gets angry when he realises he is going to be kept in custody".

Regarding allegations Mr Clarke had grabbed the man by the throat, the judge said it was a bit like a rugby tackle that may have started off in one part of the body but in the ensuing movement it ended up somewhere else.

Judge McElholm said there had been no injury or pain caused to the man and so "I do not consider the use of force excessive". He dismissed the charge.

Belfast Telegraph

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