Officer disciplined over handling of road traffic collision

Published Date: Feb 2015

A police officer whose official report into a road traffic collision contained a number of mistakes and who failed to properly caution a driver involved in the incident has been disciplined after an investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office.

In a complaint made to the Office, the driver stated that a number of days following the collision he was surprised to learn through his insurance company that he had received a police caution for driving without due care and attention.  He alleged that the charge was not put to him at the time.

 He said that the investigating officer on the scene told him very little about what would happen after the incident, except that he would be receiving a discretionary caution and that it would remain on his record for 12 months.  He understood this meant he was not admitting liability for the accident, adding that he would have objected had he been aware he was being accused of the more serious offence of driving without due care and attention.

The man also complained about the officer’s subsequent collision report, which stated that the road where the accident happened was a single carriageway, there was no damage to the man’s car, the speed limit was 40mph and that the driver was turning right at the time.  He alleged that all of these statements were inaccurate.

When interviewed, the officer admitted he had made errors in completion of his records.  He also agreed that he had made mistakes when giving the man a discretionary caution, a process which enables the police to deal with minor incidents at the scene in return for an admission of guilt from the recipient. 

 Police policy on how to administer discretionary cautions states that the officer should complete a form and that the person receiving it should sign it, showing that they accept and understand the process.  The officer accepted that neither of these were done. 

 As a result of these failings the Police Ombudsman made appropriate disciplinary recommendations in respect of the officer, which have been acted upon by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The issue of the caution issued to the man was also taken up with senior police and was expunged from the man’s record.  

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