No police misconduct over collapse of deer death court case

Published Date: 26.01.2015

Police officers were not to blame for the collapse of a court case arising from the death of a deer following an alleged attack by a hunting dog, the Police Ombudsman has concluded.

Following the incident in April 2012, police launched an investigation into alleged deer poaching and a charge of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal.

The case went to court, but charges against the dog’s owner were dismissed as the deer’s carcass had not been retained by police until the conclusion of the case.

The dog owner then lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman’s Office alleging that police had acted unlawfully by allowing the carcass to be destroyed.

However, enquiries by Police Ombudsman investigators found that it was destroyed only because police did not have access to suitable cold storage facilities in which to keep it for such an extended period.

Officers had also advised defence solicitors that the carcass would be destroyed and had offered them an opportunity to organise an examination before its destruction. In addition, they ensured that a post mortem examination was carried out shortly after the animal’s death.

The officers were also cleared of misconduct in relation to allegations of unlawful arrest and forcing a witness to change her statement, which were also made by the dog owner.

Investigators found that the arrest was justified, and happened only after officers had tried to arrange for interviews to take place by voluntary attendance.

Enquiries found that a second statement was obtained from a witness in order to clarify the timing of the incident.  This was done in compliance with recognised investigative practice.

As a result of the investigation, the Police Ombudsman recommended that police should source suitable long-term storage facilities to avoid similar problems in the future. The PSNI has since advised that funding restrictions have prevented it from implementing the recommendation.

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