Ballyholme Beach in north Down

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The incident happened at Ballyholme beach in north Down

A police officer who was kicked in the face while trying to break up a crowd of young people has described the incident as « very frightening ».

Hundreds of people were on Ballyholme Beach in north Down on 29 May in breach of social distancing guidelines.

Many of the young people on the beach were drinking.

The chief constable and justice minister had both praised the officer for remaining on shift and going on to attend other calls that evening.

The constable, who did not want to be named, normally works in a back office role but has been deployed to the front line to help with the police response to the coronavirus pandemic.

‘400 to 500 young people’

« Two of my colleagues had entered the beach and come under attack and had bottles thrown at them and had reported that there was a large crowd on the beach, » she said.

« When we arrived on the beach, the beach was full. There must have been in excess of 400 or 500 young people all sitting in various groups throughout the beach. »

The officers began asking the young people to leave as they were in breach of social-distancing guidelines.

‘Kicked me in the face’

« There was one group in particular who just refused to engage with us and all seemed heavily intoxicated, » said the PSNI constable.

« I spoke to one young man and explained to him that he shouldn’t be drinking on the beach and as I lent down to speak to him he just put his foot up and kicked me directly in the face.

« I was struck between my nose and my upper lip. I instantly fell back and then I went to restrain him and then my colleagues joined me and we restrained him and arrested him. »

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Since the attack happened, lockdown restrictions have began to ease across Northern Ireland

The officer said the incident took her by surprise and that she was shocked by the young man’s actions.

« I wasn’t expecting it and I particularly wasn’t expecting it at Ballyholme beach, » she said.

« It was quite frightening, it was frightening to see how quickly the crowd had turned with the influence of alcohol.

« And to be kicked in the face wasn’t something I expected when I started my shift that evening. »

The constable said the majority of young people on the beach were respectful and that the vast majority did move on when asked.

‘Attitude and arrogance’

She said that when they approached some young people they would say they were social distancing or that they lived in the same household.

« It was the attitude and the arrogance of the young people that this doesn’t apply to us, » she said.

The officer said that between 19:00 BST and 07:00 BST her section answered 120 calls for service.

Following the incident on the beach, the constable and her colleague attended a race hate crime against a Polish family and then attended an apparent drug overdose, which required them to keep a man’s airways open until an ambulance arrived.

« It’s part of the job. We only work together when we work as a team, » she said.