Crash enquiries were appropriate

Published Date: 19.11.2014

An investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office has found that police dealt properly with reports of a road traffic collision, despite a public complaint that they had not attended the scene of the collision, been unhelpful when they spoke to a victim and failed to appeal for information about the incident.

The complaint was made by a man who alleged that his car had been struck from behind by one of two vehicles, which he stated had been racing each other at speed in the middle of the road.  This had caused damage to his rear bumper and to the passenger side of his car. A short time after the incident he called the police to report what had happened.

Police Ombudsman investigators obtained a copy of a recording of the telephone call made to police reporting the incident, as well as all police reports relating to their investigation and photographs of the man’s car.

The records showed that a police vehicle arrived at the location provided by the man within minutes of his call, but was unable to locate him.

Notes made by the officer who was the subject of the complaint showed that her first conversation with the man was by telephone on the afternoon of the day following the incident.  This note contained an explanation as to why she had not been able to make contact until that point. 

The officer recorded that during this phone call the man stated that his car’s bumper had a graze which must have come from being involved in a collision with one of the cars.  He now believed that he may have felt the impact of the car and was now in pain from the accident. 

On listening to the recording of the initial report of the incident to police, the man could be heard stating that he had had to pull in because of two cars racing in the middle of the road.  During this phone call there was no mention of a collision.

Police records showed that this officer and other officers made a number of attempts to obtain a statement from the man, but that he was unwilling to go to local police stations to do this, believing that the police should make efforts to visit him. The police team specifically tasked to do this work made arrangements to see the man but he had been unable to make the appointment. 

They continued to make efforts for the man to make a statement up until the man made his complaint to the Office several weeks after the incident.

When asked about why there had not been an appeal for potential witnesses to what happened, the officer stated that the man had been unable to give information regarding the vehicle registration numbers of the other vehicles involved or the make and type of vehicles.  This officer did not believe given the level of information provided that an appeal for witnesses was possible.

The view of the Police Ombudsman was that in this case the evidence did not support the allegation that the behaviour of the police fell below the standard set out in the police Code of Ethics. The complaint was therefore not upheld.

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