Northern Ireland

Michael Copeland, not police, hit wife during loyalist protest

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionMichael Copeland claimed in an interview with BBC Radio Ulster that his wife was hit by a police officer's baton

An investigation into an Ulster Unionist's claim that his wife was assaulted by a policeman has concluded he accidentally hit her himself.

Michael Copeland had accused the officer of striking his wife with a baton during a loyalist protest in Belfast city centre last August.

He lodged a complaint with the police ombudsman, alleging PSNI assault.

However, video footage taken by police shows Mr Copeland accidentally hitting his wife on the back of her head.

The incident happened as the East Belfast MLA tried to evade a baton being swung at a protester attacking police.

The alleged incident happened on 9 August 2013 during a loyalist demonstration against a republican anti-internment parade that had been due to march along Royal Avenue, Belfast.

Twenty-six officers were hurt when some members of the crowd attacked the police, and the parade had to be re-routed.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Michael Copeland told the BBC he did not want to comment until the ombudsman's report into his complaint has been published.

Mr Copeland later told the BBC his wife, daughter and himself had been attacked by a police officer.

"I was kicked underneath a police shield, I was pushed with a police shield, and my daughter was struck I believe with a baton or the edge of a shield, and my wife was struck as well," he said.

"I went straight to Strandtown (police station) and I explained. They told me I had to go to the police ombudsman, and I said I wanted to make a complaint of common assault by someone dressed as a police officer."

The politician made a complaint to the ombudsman's office, and investigators asked the PSNI for video footage officers had taken of the protest.

It is understood the PSNI footage shows Mr Copeland standing with his back turned to a line of police officers with riot shields.

He appears to be urging members of the crowd to stop attacking the police when a protester is seen to lunge forward and one of the officers strikes out with his baton.

Mr Copeland appears to see the baton being swung and takes evasive action, ducking and swinging his elbow, and accidentally hitting his wife on the back of the head.

Neither of them appear to realise what has happened.

The BBC understands that investigators have not upheld any of Mr Copeland's allegations of assault.

Mr Copeland told the BBC he did not want to comment until the ombudsman's report into his complaint has been published.

The ombudsman and the PSNI also declined to comment.

Related Topics

More on this story