Published Date: 16.12.2014
Two police officers have been disciplined after a Police Ombudsman investigation found that an alleged hit and run case was closed without any meaningful investigation into the incident.
The collision happened on a pedestrian crossing, and was witnessed by a taxi driver and his passengers, who gave their details to police at the scene.
However, just 10 days later, and without having obtained statements from these witnesses, the supervising police officer decided to close the case.
Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire said the decision represented a serious failure in duty, given that police had closed the case without conducting “even the most basic of enquiries”.
“The investigation was wound up before it had even properly begun, and the officers involved could provide no justifiable reason why,” said Dr Maguire. “They let down the injured party, and ensured that the driver was not held to account for her actions.”
Clothing and speed were irrelevant.
When interviewed by a Police Ombudsman investigator, the investigating officer and his supervisor said the case had been closed because speed had not been a factor and the injured party had been wearing dark clothes at the time.
However, the Police Ombudsman investigator pointed out that this was irrelevant as the accident happened at a well-lit pedestrian crossing at which the driver had been required to stop.
The Police Ombudsman’s investigation also upheld the injured party’s complaint that police had failed to update him on the case. Enquiries established that police did not tell him that the case had been closed until he phoned the investigating officer two months later.
While apologising for the oversight, the investigating officer denied the injured party’s allegation that he had been uninterested and dismissive while recording his statement.
The Police Ombudsman investigator also contacted the taxi driver and passengers who had given their details to police at the collision scene, and each confirmed that they had not been asked by police to provide statements.
Witnesses confirmed they had not been contacted to provide statements.
In fact, the only statements the investigating officer did obtain were from the driver and her front seat passenger - and even then, no apparent effort had been made to resolve inconsistencies in the accounts they provided.
The Police Ombudsman recommended that both officers should be disciplined for their handling of the case, and the PSNI have since implemented the recommendation.