Belfast Daily can reveal that four constables and an inspector now face possible arrest by Police Ombudsman NI (PONI) investigators over allegations they gave false evidence under oath during a civil action last year.
They are also being investigated over claims of perverting the course of justice relating to evidence presented in the case.
We have learned the officers recently declined to attend a PACE 10 voluntary interview with PONI investigators following legal advice.
PONI investigators have the power of arrest and can ask a judge to authorise an arrest warrant to bring the officers in for interview.
A student was suing the PSNI for injuries he sustained in 2012 when he claimed he was struck on the leg by a police landrover in the Oldpark district of north Belfast.
The Police Ombudsman’s office confirmed to us that that they were now investigating the perjury allegations.
In a statement, PONI told Belfast Daily: “We are investigating allegations that a number of police officers lied under oath during a civil court hearing in Belfast last year.
“Our enquiries are ongoing.”
We can reveal that the investigation centres on evidence given under oath in the witness box by the officers and a CD-ROM of CCTV footage presented to the court.
The footage shown to the court was of a land rover driving at a relatively low speed in the area.
During evidence to the court, officers said they slowed down and stopped at the footpath before gently driving onto a walkway at approximately 2mph, then drove along the walk way at between 5 mph-6 mph.
But after a judge dismissed the student’s claim for damages, a second CD-ROM of CCTV footage emerged.
It was obtained by PONI at the time of the incident from a petrol station beside the former Crumlin Road prison from a CCTV camera mounted in the forecourt to catch motorists who drive off without paying for fuel.
This footage – obtained by Belfast Daily – lasts for up to 18 seconds and appears to show that at no time did the land rover slow down.
In fact, it appears to show the vehicle speed up after slamming into the footpath at speed.
Experts for the litigant estimate from the footage that the landrover covered a distance of 52 metres in 7 seconds giving the vehicle an average speed of 21.2 mph.
The action for criminal injury damages was heard at the Recorder’s Court in Belfast on October 11 and was brought by a university student.
In the light of the new CCTV footage emerging, the student made a complaint of perjury against the five police officers to the Police Ombudsman.
His legal team have now launched an appeal against the original decision to dismiss his claim for damages against Chief Constable George Hamilton.
The complainant, who is now studying at Queen’s University in Belfast, claimed he was struck by an armoured plated police landrover in September 2012 while walking home with friends in the Oldpark district.
The Police Ombudsman investigated the original incident and a sent a file to the PPS but the PPS decided not to prosecute the officers.
But the young boy’s father believes the incident by officers from a specialist Tactical Support Group (TSG) is linked to a 14-year campaign of “intimidation’’ against him.
In a statement to Ombudsman investigators, his then 17-year-old son said he was walking home with friends on September 12, 2012 after a cross community group meeting when the drama unfolded.
“At around 11pm I was standing with friends at the bottom of the Oldpark Road, north Belfast on the pavement when I saw a police Landrover approach from the Crumlin Road heading country wards.
“Without warning this police vehicle suddenly made a right turn onto the Oldpark Road and mounted the footpath heading straight for me and my friends.
“At first I froze, then I realised it wasn’t going to stop so I turned around and began to run up the alleyway away from the speeding landrover.
“It continued to run at me and as I entered Shannon Court which is at the end of the alleyway I became aware that the vehicle was very close to me.
“As I tried to avoid it I believe either my leg or foot was struck by the landrover causing me to stumble forward.
“I thought at first it was going to crush me and I started to run again.
“I am not sure if I hit my knee on the ground or twisted on impact with the vehicle it happened so fast but I felt a sharp tearing pain in my knee as I continued to try to avoid being run over.
“As I tried to go up another alleyway I became aware that police officers on foot were pursuing me and as I looked around I could see they had batons drawn.
“They quickly caught up with me and one of them pushed a baton into my back as I was pinned to a wall up the alleyway. At no time did I resist the police and would regard this as an assault with the baton.
“I was then brought back to the landrover and questioned about what myself and my friends were doing. I replied I wasn’t doing anything wrong.
“I heard one officer saying that I was almost killed and tried to blame that on me.
“After 10 minutes or so they told me to ‘go away on’ and I did and reported the incident to my dad. He attempted to talk to a senior officer but no one was available.
“My dad reported the incident to the Police Ombudsman the following day.”
Two senior PONI investigators and its CSI team visited the scene to take pictures and casts of wheel marks at where the teenager said he was struck by the landrover.
A number of CCTV recordings were also recovered including one from a local petrol station where the boys had earlier bought sweets.
PONI investigators later took a statement from a witness who allegedly heard police talking about the incident.
He told investigators: “I heard one of the police officers saying to the other: ‘F**k me. You nearly killed him there.”
The Ombudsman’s office spoke to a total of five police officers who were in the Land Rover that night.
The front seat passenger – or ‘observer’ – was a PSNI Inspector who holds the Queen’s Police Medal and the driver of the four tonne Landrover were interviewed under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) by way of an Article 3 caution.
The PPS decided not to prosecute them and a third officer was reported to the PSNI’s Professional Standards Department (PSD) for a number of disciplinary offences.
Following the incident, the victim went to the Royal Victoria Hospital and had his leg X-rayed by doctors before being referred to Musgrave Park Hospital for a full examination of the damage to his knee.
“I was told that I definitely had cartilage damage and there may be other internal damage too. I had to stop playing rugby as a result.
“Before this incident I and my friends had just come from the local filling station after buying sweets and were standing chatting. I have no idea why the Police acted the way they did.”
His father and his legal team have been carrying out their own investigations into the incident.
His dad told Belfast Daily: “Firstly, armoured land rovers are strictly forbidden to act as pursuit vehicles in all non-life threatening situations and I made this clear to the judge at the damages hearing. This was a breach by the driver at the time.
“Secondly, CCTV clearly shows the driver of the landrover mounting the footpath without just cause.
“Thirdly, in the driver’s statement he said that my son begged, and I emphasise ‘begged’, for him not to inform his parents.
“Yet within minutes of the incident I am informed and I arrive at Tennent Street PSNI station after doing a search for the TSG unit.
“Police at Tennent Street and BRC (Belfast Regional Control) both requested any TSG unit that had dealings with my son within the last hour to respond.
“After three attempts via RT (radio transmission) that unit failed to reply.
“I was informed by a serving officer that the attack on my son was the direct result of a group of rogue officers who had taken it upon themselves to attack both myself and family members.
“Number 4 TSG based at Castlereagh were involved but a local officer on board, I believe, targeted my son to the landrover crew.
“He was there because TSG had limited knowledge of the area.”
The student is now appealing the judge’s decision to dismiss his action for damages.
His case was mentioned last Friday at the High Court in Belfast and was adjourned until April 4.