Published Date: 29.09.2014
An officer who was accused of not following police guidelines when questioning a driver for a traffic offence has been cleared following an investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office. A further complaint that the officer acted in a bullying and oppressive manner during the incident was also not upheld.
The Ombudsman examined the allegations after a complaint was lodged by a man who stated that whilst driving on the M1 motorway he was pulled over by the police and accused of not wearing his seatbelt. He complained that the officer did not introduce himself, asked repetitive questions without first cautioning him or advising him of his rights, and repeatedly tried to make him admit that he was not wearing his seatbelt. He also stated that throughout the 20 minute period during which he was detained the officer’s attitude was unprofessional and rude.
Camera footage of the vehicle being stopped was obtained and reviewed but showed nothing of evidential value.
When the officer was interviewed he stated that in the process of overtaking the man’s vehicle he clearly observed that he was not wearing his seatbelt. As his colleague had noticed the same thing it was indicated to the man that he should pull over on to the hard shoulder.
The officer stated that he was in full uniform and introduced himself as a member of the Roads Policing Unit (RPU). He said that he informed the man of his and his colleagues’ observation that he was not wearing a seatbelt, and asked a number of questions about him and his vehicle.
Having conducted his vehicle checks he returned and spoke to the man, who then informed him that he may not have been wearing his seatbelt. The officer stated that as a result he issued a FPN and cautioned the man in the appropriate terms.
The officer denied that he had behaved in a bullying or oppressive manner and reiterated that when speaking with the man he had simply been obtaining all relevant details, advising him of what his and his colleague’s observations had been and what options were available to him.
A statement was supplied by the accompanying officer in which he stated that he did not see any sign of a seatbelt across the man’s chest and that in fact he saw him struggling to put the seatbelt on as he manoeuvred onto the hard shoulder of the motorway.
After considering the allegations the Police Ombudsman concluded that the officer failing to give his name when dealing with the man did not amount to misconduct. As he was in a police vehicle, was dressed in uniform and had informed the man he was a member of the RPU this was deemed sufficient to have identified him as a police officer.
Additionally it was judged that the officer did not breach police guidelines by not immediately cautioning the man, as there are no requirements for cautions to be given if the police are merely looking to establish an individual’s identity or establish the ownership of a vehicle.
As there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations made the case was closed and the complaint not upheld.