Officers not to blame after motorcyclist crashes into collision debris

Published Date: 07.08.2013

An investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office has found police were not to blame after a motorcyclist travelling in heavy fog collided with a car door left on the road after a traffic accident.

The motorcyclist struck the debris after turning back from a police cordon set up around the scene of a collision on the Ligoniel Road outside Belfast in October 2012.

He said visibility was down to a couple of feet given the foggy and dark conditions, and recalled that he had travelled about 200 yards away from the police cordon when he struck the car door. He sustained minor injuries and his motorbike was damaged in the collision.

After crashing, the motorcyclist then went to speak to officers who were in a police car parked, with its lights flashing, on the brow of a hill within the cordon area. He said that an officer told him that police were aware the door had been lying on the road.

Claimed officers failed to clear road and establish suitable cordon.

The motorcyclist later lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman’s Office alleging that police had failed to clear the road and also to establish a suitable cordon to ensure the safety of road users.

During their investigation of the complaint, Police Ombudsman investigators obtained all relevant police documentation, including sketches of the scene produced by police mapping.

They also spoke to the two officers who had been in the police car parked within the cordon area. Both categorically denied having any knowledge of the car door lying on the road.

They described how, after arriving at the scene of the collision, they had checked the road for debris on either side of the point at which the damaged car had come to rest.

When the road was clear of any further debris in both directions, they then set up signs, lights and tape to alert drivers to the accident. Having done so, they then continued to check for “a considerable distance” beyond the cordon to ensure the area remained clear, and found no further debris.

One officer said that despite the poor visibility, they had located the bonnet, inner part of the door and a wheel which had come off the car as a result of the collision. She said they had thought that the outer part of the door may have ended up in one of the fields on either side of the road

The other officer added that the car door had been about 300 metres from the crashed car, and about 200 metres beyond the cordon they had set up.

This was corroborated by sketches of the scene produced by police mapping, which showed the cordon was set up about 100 metres from the crashed car, with the car door lying more than 300 metres away from the damaged vehicle.

Both officers said they would have extended the cordon if they had been aware that the door was there.

Having reviewed the evidence, the Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, concluded there was no evidence that police had failed to take appropriate steps to check the road for debris or set up a suitable cordon, and closed the complaint as “not substantiated.”

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