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Appeal court overturns PSNI officer assault conviction

An NI court has quashed the conviction of as councillor accused of assaulting two PSNI officers.

A Northern Ireland councillor has had his conviction for assaulting a female police officer overturned.

Newry County Court of Appeal said there were inconsistencies in the evidence against Henry Reilly, an independent Unionist councillor.

In September 2019 he was charged with two counts of resisting arrest and two counts of assaulting an officer.

It followed an incident after two officers went to his home following a phone call from his daughter asking for officers to attend. She had then made a second call to say they were no longer needed.

The two officers entered the property where Mr Reilly was asleep in one of the rooms and questioned his wife and daughter.

The judge decided that the officers had then aggressively woken Mr Reilly, ordered him to leave the house and surrender his legally-held firearm.

As Mr Reilly moved towards a doorway there was struggle between the two officers and the councillor.

The judge hearing the appeal, decided that the officers’ accounts were different to those of the councillor’s wife and daughter and that body-worn cameras were "hardly used at all" despite policies on their use.

Judge Gordon Kerr said: "I cannot be sure that they were acting in execution of their duty at the time of the alleged assaults."

He also questioned whether the officers had the legal right to compel him to leave as both his wife and daughter had attempted to intervene in his favour.

Judge Kerr added that the claim by the officers that Mr Reilly had been restrained to "stop him attacking his family is, in my view, entirely unsustainable".

He also took into account that Mr Reilly had sustained injuries to his finger, elbow and wrist.

The conviction was overturned.

The Northern Ireland Police Federation said the case had highlighted the complex situations that officers face.

Its statement to Police Oracle said: “We accept the Judgement of the Court. Officers are sometimes placed in difficult positions where they have to make split-second decisions.”

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