Officer disciplined after near-collision with motorist

Published Date: 16.04.2015

The Police Ombudsman’s Office has upheld a complaint from a member of the public who was forced to do an emergency stop to avoid a police vehicle which had gone through red traffic lights in Belfast city centre.

The Office investigated after the motorist stated that they just gone through a junction when they saw an emergency vehicle with flashing blue lights suddenly emerge at speed from the opposing junction.  The complainant alleged that the car was being driven dangerously and that the only way to avoid crashing into it was to do an emergency stop. 

CCTV footage of the scene was obtained and viewed by Ombudsman investigators.  The car belonging to the complainant was seen to proceed through a green light across the junction at the same time as the police car emerged from the opposite junction.  The complainants’ car was then seen to brake hard to avoid a collision, while the police car swerved to the left. Both cars briefly came to a standstill, before the police vehicle drove off.

The officer explained to Ombudsman investigators that at the time of the incident he was responding to a request for assistance from colleagues.  He said taht as he approached the junction the lights were red and he saw a car coming from his right.  He stated that he believed the driver had seen him and had slowed in response. 

After proceeding through the red lights and checking left, he then realised the driver of the other car was instead continuing towards him.  He then manoeuvred to the left in order to avoid a collision.  He said that he was not driving the police vehicle in a dangerous manner, but that he did however momentarily misjudge the speed of the other vehicle.

The PSNI’s own guidelines for emergency response driving were consulted.  They state that “when proceeding past a red signal it should be treated as a ‘Stop’ or ‘Give Way’ sign, and no attempt should be made to proceed unless the driver is sure the way is clear.”

In this case, the Ombudsman believed that the Officer had approached the junction too fast and did not stop before proceeding through it, thus almost causing a collision with the car. It was also noted that he was not providing an emergency response to a call during the time of the incident.

The officer concerned was subject to a disciplinary sanction by the PSNI following a recommendation by the Ombudsman.               


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