Published Date: 26.11.2015
A police officer has been disciplined after a solicitor complained about his attitude towards her during an interview with her client.
In a complaint to the Police Ombudsman’s Office, the solicitor claimed the officer’s behaviour was “inappropriate and indeed aggressive” following a disagreement over the officer’s refusal to show her a letter he had shown briefly to a suspect.
Police Ombudsman investigator Fergus Jamison explains why he recommended disciplinary action against a police officer over his attitude to a solicitor during an interview.
While the Police Ombudsman’s investigation did not find that the officer had been unduly aggressive given the nature of the exchange, it concluded that a more conciliatory approach might have helped resolve the situation.
The solicitor stated that the officer talked over her when she tried to explain why she needed to see the letter, then accused her of being obstructive and threatened to have her removed from the interview.
The solicitor said she ended up leaving the interview room to raise her concerns with the custody sergeant, and complained that the officer continued with the interview in her absence.
She also alleged that at one stage the officer leaned over the table between them and pointed a pen towards her face.
During his investigation of the complaint, a Police Ombudsman investigator obtained statements from those involved, and examined audio recordings of the interview and CCTV footage from the interview room and the area outside it.
He concluded that the officer should have allowed the solicitor “brief sight” of the letter and had been “too quick” in threatening to have her excluded from the interview.
And although the officer was within his rights to continue with the interview when the solicitor asked that it be terminated, the investigator concluded that all parties would have benefitted from a break to defuse the situation.
He also found that the officer should not have continued the interview when the solicitor had left the room, and should not have challenged a request from the solicitor to speak to the custody sergeant in private.
However, the allegation that the officer had pointed his pen at the face of the solicitor in an aggressive and adversarial way was not substantiated.
The investigator recommended that the officer should be disciplined for these issues and receive retraining in aspects of interview technique. The PSNI has since implemented the recommendation.