Published Date: Nov 2014
A police officer had been disciplined following a case at Enniskillen Magistrate’s Court when the presiding judge said he believed one of the officers who had given evidence to the court had lied.
The court hearing, which concerned an incident in April 2010, was heard in April 2011, during which the judge expressed concerns that the evidence offered by two police officers was so similar it gave him cause for concern.
He later said that although the police officers had said they had made their statements independently, he considered this was “patently untrue.” He said the first page of their respective statements was copied word for word and felt that one of the officers had lied in their evidence to the court.
The Public Prosecution Service referred the matter to the Police Ombudsman’s Office for independent investigation.
Police Ombudsman investigators established that there was no written or audio recordings of the court proceedings. Both the judge and the prosecutor declined to provide the Police Ombudsman investigators with statements.
Investigators interviewed both police officers. Police Officer One‘s statement was dated 16th April 2010. He said his statement had been drawn from the notes he made immediately after the incident. He said he typed it onto a blank witness statement template document on a police computer, which he then e- mailed to the police officer dealing with the incident. The officer said that the first time he had heard Police Officer Two’s statement was when he was in court.
Police Officer Two’s statement was dated 17 May 2010. He said he told the truth at court but declined to answer any questions from Police Ombudsman investigators.
Investigators established that Police Officer Two had viewed Police Officer One’s statement at 16:44hrs on 29 April 2010 and at 18:21 hrs had created a computer document which contained the main body of Officer One’s statement.
The Police Ombudsman’s Office forwarded a report of its investigation to the Public Prosecution Service which directed ‘No Prosecution.’
The Office then considered its investigations for any outstanding disciplinary issues. During this process it interviewed Police Officer Two again. He told investigators he had a problem with spelling and grammar and would often use similar statements he had made previously as a template when compiling a new one. He said that if he had not dealt with a particular incident previously and did already have a similar statement which could act as a template, he would seek one from a colleague for such.
Police Officer Two said that in this instance he had no recollection of creating the statement in question, nor of accessing Police Officer One’s statement. The officer said he accepted the Police Ombudsman’s findings and must have seen his colleague’s statement. He said he was not aware of this, however, when he had given evidence to the court.
The Police Ombudsman concluded that Police Officer Two accessed Police Officer One’s statement , ‘copied and pasted’ it and altered the second page to reflect his own evidence. The first pages of both statements were very similar and it was this which ultimately attracted the attention of the judge.
Police Officer Two has been disciplined. The Police Ombudsman has also recommended that he should receive guidance in preparing statements and delivering evidence in court.