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Ulster Unionist Michael Copeland will be embarrassed after complaint to ombudsman. Photo by: MichaelCopelandMLA

Unionist politician hit his wife at loyalist protest – not police

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Ulster Unionist Michael Copeland will be embarrassed after complaint to ombudsman. Photo by: MichaelCopelandMLA

A loyalist politician has been left red-faced after an investigation into his claims that his wife was assaulted by police during a  protest in Belfast proved that he hit her himself!

Ulster Unionist Michael Copeland had publicly claimed that his wife was struck with a baton by a PSNI officer in the city centre last August.

He made an official complaint on the day at a nearby police station then lodged a protest with the Northern Ireland ombudsman’s office.

Now the BBC has reported that Copeland accidentally hit his wife himself, but neither of them realized he was to blame.

The BBC report says that video footage taken by police shows Copeland accidentally hitting his wife on the back of her head.

The incident happened as the East Belfast member of the Northern Ireland assembly tried to evade a baton being swung at a protester attacking police.

The alleged incident occurred during a loyalist demonstration against a republican anti-internment parade that had been due to march along Royal Avenue in Belfast.

The report adds that 26 police officers were hurt when some members of the crowd attacked them and the parade had to be re-routed.

At the time Copeland told the BBC that his wife, daughter and himself had been attacked by a police officer.

He said, “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.

“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 did make a complaint to the ombudsman’s office. Investigators asked the PSNI for video footage officers had taken of the protest.

The PSNI footage shows Copeland standing with his back turned to a line of police officers with riot shields according to the BBC website.

The report says, “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 realize what has happened.”

The BBC report says that investigators have not upheld any of Copeland’s allegations of assault.

Copeland told the BBC on Monday that 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 to the broadcaster.

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