Belfast Telegraph

Police were justified in Ballycastle house search for bailed man, says Ombudsman

By David Reed

Police officers who entered a property without a search warrant after calling to conduct a bail check were acting in accordance with regulations, a watchdog has found.

The Police Ombudsman received a complaint from a householder following the incident in Ballycastle, Co Antrim, in March.

The complainant said two officers - one male and one female - called at his home after midnight to check on the bail subject, whose terms included a curfew between 11pm and 6am.

He alleged that the officers had unlawfully forced their way into the house, damaging the front door.

He further claimed that the male officer had wielded a firearm and that both had failed to identify themselves when asked for their details. He also alleged that their presence at the property was unlawful as he had no knowledge of the bail subject.

Investigators from the Police Ombudsman's office, which is headed by Dr Michael Maguire, established that there could be "no doubt" the householder was aware of the identity of the bail subject - despite the officers using the individual's middle name when explaining the reason for their presence, given that a man with the same surname was bailed to his address.

The police officers told investigators that on approaching the property they discovered the front door open and on looking inside found the house to be in an extremely untidy state.

Concerned that a crime had been, or was in the process of being committed, the officers said they then entered the property, announcing they were police.

The male officer said that on receiving no reply he went upstairs and knocked on the first bedroom door, from which the householder appeared.

He said he then explained to the man why he was there in the first instance and why he had then entered the house, but the man rejected his account.

The householder pointed out minor damage to the front door which the officer said could not have been caused by him or his colleague as they had not forced entry, adding that he believed the damage had been caused previously.

The officers denied refusing to reveal their identities as both were in full uniform, with their identification numbers in full view.

The two also denied that a firearm had been drawn at any time and said the only equipment being carried had been torches.

Police Ombudsman investigators examined the notebooks of both officers and established their records of the incident were detailed and supported each other's version of events.

No evidence was found to corroborate the householder's claims.

Ombudsman investigators rejected the householder's complaint and concluded that the officers were acting in accordance with regulations in being at the premises.

Belfast Telegraph

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