Belfast Telegraph

Policeman 'defied firearms regulations' when he shot and blinded 'joyrider' in Belfast estate, court hears

A police constable who shot and blinded a so-called joyrider acted in complete defiance of firearms regulations, the High Court heard today.

Stephen Fullerton was hit by lethal force as the officer fired twice into the stolen car in an east Belfast housing estate, it was claimed.

Fullerton is suing the PSNI for alleged assault and battery over the injuries he suffered in the incident seven years ago.

Police are defending the action, contending the vehicle was being driven at speed towards the officers involved.

Fullerton, 28, had been a passenger in the Vauxhall Monaro stolen by another man from a house in the Dundonald area in January 2007.

It was spotted by a police patrol on the Comber Road and pursued into the Rockmount estate where the shooting incident occurred.

Despite confusion over whether the Monaro had come to a halt, counsel for the plaintiff said one of the officers then discharged two bullets.

According to Patrick Lyttle QC one round struck the edge of the windscreen while the second went through his client's arm and hit him on the right side of the head.

The man behind the wheel of the Monaro took off before returning to seek police help.

"Blood was pumping out through Mr Fullerton's head and the driver had to put his finger in the hole in his head to stop the blood," Mr Lyttle said.

Fullerton suffered optic nerve damage, leaving him completely blind in one eye.

He accepts previous involvement in joyriding incidents and later pleaded guilty to allowing himself to be carried in a stolen vehicle, the court heard.

But opening his civil action, Mr Lyttle claimed the policeman who opened fire acted negligently in a residential area.

"What we are attempting to prove here is the officer discharged two shots in a built-up area, he fired directly at the car, aiming for the upper body or head, and did so without proper thought or deliberation and in complete defiance of the regulations that apply," he continued.

"It was lethal force being used here in a built-up area.

"If this bullet had not gone through my client's arm and head it may well have been that it entered one of the houses."

The barrister questioned whether it had been necessary to fire shots.

However, Mr Justice Gillen was told by the PSNI's lawyers that the officers believed they were under potentially lethal attack.

Gerald Simpson QC confirmed: "The defendant's case has always been that the vehicle was moving at very considerable speed towards the constable."

Mr Simpson also suggested conflicting accounts were being given about whether or not the stolen car was moving when the shots were fired.

But the court was told Fullerton remains uncertain.

"He will say there's an entire commotion, there was music playing in the vehicle and his overwhelming recollection was of something like a blow and then a huge ringing in his head," Mr Lyttle added.

The case continues.

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