Published Date: Dec 2021
A police officer has received a final written warning after a Police Ombudsman investigation found that he gave inaccurate information to his supervisor and members of the public, and made false records on police systems.
The disciplinary offences were committed while the officer was investigating an evasion of taxi fares by two men in September 2018.
The officer, who said he was under a lot stress at the time, recorded that one of the men had been identified and had repaid the £20 owed to the two taxi drivers.
This was incorrect, as although he had spoken to the man, the money had not been repaid and was to be collected later.
Nevertheless, the officer contacted the taxi drivers and advised them that he had secured the money and arrangements would be made for them to be reimbursed.
The officer was moved to a different role a few days later and no arrangements were made to repay the money.
When he was subsequently asked by a supervisor whether the drivers had been reimbursed, the officer stated that he had mistakenly taken the money home.
The supervisor recognised that this was in contravention of police policies and arranged to meet the officer to collect the money. At the meeting, the officer admitted that he had not progressed the matter and that the money had not been repaid.
He said it was his intention to pay the taxi drivers himself and offered £20 from his wallet to do so. The supervisor refused to take the money and subsequently tried himself to trace the man who had failed to pay.
When the supervisor rang the man’s phone it was answered by the man’s mother, who advised that a female police officer had called to her house and been given the outstanding money.
The supervisor then informed the PSNI’s Discipline Branch and the matter was referred to the Police Ombudsman for independent investigation.
Officer admitted misleading supervisor and members of the public.
The officer who had failed to obtain the money was interviewed by Police Ombudsman investigators. He admitted misleading his supervisor and the taxi drivers, and recording false information on police systems.
He said he had been under a lot of stress and stated that paying the £20 himself seemed to be the quickest way of resolving the situation – particularly as neither taxi driver wanted the matter to go to court.
However, he said he was moved to other duties before he had a chance to make arrangements for the money to be collected. He also denied arranging for the money to be collected from the man’s mother.
Police Ombudsman investigators examined police records, including phone records and computerised details of the movements of police vehicles. They found no record of any officer having been in contact with the man’s mother before the phone call during which she stated that the money had been repaid.
A file was submitted to the Public Prosecution Service, which directed that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the officer for theft, perverting the course of justice or misconduct in a public office.
However, the Police Ombudsman, Mrs Marie Anderson, recommended that he should be required to attend a misconduct hearing for making false records, misleading his supervisor and members of the public, and failing to properly investigate the failure to pay the taxi drivers. The PSNI accepted the recommendation.
The subsequent hearing found that the officer had been dishonest and imposed a final written warning.