Police were right to return children to mother after father accused of assault

Published Date: 24.11.2014

An investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office has found that police acted properly by returning a man’s children to their mother to allow them to arrest him after she accused him of assault.

The man had been collecting his children for the weekend when he became involved in an altercation with the children’s mother. She then called police and reported that she had been concerned for the children’s welfare during the incident.

Police called at the house where the children were staying and made sure they had no concerns for their safety. An officer then contacted the mother and advised her he was happy the children were safe.

However, the mother then went to her local police station and reported that both she and her children had been assaulted by their father. Police recorded a formal complaint and statements, and decided to arrest him.

To allow them to do so, they then contacted the children’s mother and made arrangements to return the children to her. The father was then taken to a police station.

He later complained to the Police Ombudsman’s Office that the children had been removed without lawful authority or good reason, and without consultation with Social Services. He also alleged that his arrest had been unlawful and heavy-handed and there had been no need to place him in handcuffs.

In addition, he alleged that his detention was unnecessary and he could have been dealt with as a voluntary attender.

A Police Ombudsman investigator interviewed the police officer who dealt with the incident. He said that he considered it to be in the children’s best interests that they should be returned to their mother, who was their lawful guardian, when their father was arrested.

Officer had no concerns over children's welfare

He added that there had been no need to contact Social Services as he had been dealing with allegations against the father, and had no concerns about the children’s welfare.

The officer also denied that the arrest had been heavy-handed. He said six officers, including two female officers, had attended, and the female officers were the only ones who went into the house. He added that handcuffs had been required to ensure the officers’ safety as the father was agitated and would have to travel 15 miles in a police car to a designated police station.

The investigator concluded that the officer had committed no misconduct in relation to any of the above allegations, but he did identify two problems with the police investigation of the assault case.

First, the children’s mother was asked by police to identify witnesses and ask them to contact police. The Police Ombudsman investigator judged that this had the potential to compromise the impartiality of the investigation and lead to an unfair balance of witness evidence.

It was also discovered that a potential witness identified by the father had not been not approached by police.  The officer has since been disciplined over these issues.

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