Officer failed to fully investigate house break-in

Published Date: 23.07.2015

A police officer who failed to properly investigate a break-in at a woman’s house has been disciplined following an investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office.

The Office examined the actions of the officer after the woman complained that CCTV footage of those responsible for the break-in was in danger of being lost because of the investigating officer’s failures. 

In her statement to the Office she said that the officer attended her home shortly after she discovered she had been broken into.  She made him aware that CCTV cameras covered the area and gave him the details of the caretaker for her apartment complex who he could obtain the recording from.  She added that the caretaker had told her he had viewed the footage and seen suspicious activity at the main entrance area around the time of the break-in.

Despite this she said that nearly three weeks after the incident the footage had still not been collected by police.  She had been told it would be over-written automatically after 21 days and was concerned that the main piece of evidence in the case could be lost.

Ombudsman staff spoke to the caretaker.  He confirmed that the police officer had asked him to download the footage, but that he had got a ‘failed’ message while doing so.  He stated that he informed the officer of this, and that the officer said that he would come and collect the disc.

The officer was asked by the Ombudsman what steps he had taken to retrieve the footage.  He stated that he had made a number of phone calls to the caretaker and called at the apartment complex on other occasions but found him difficult to get hold of.

When asked what he had done when he was told the download had failed, he replied that he tried to collect the disc the next day, but the caretaker was not in. He then next visited two weeks later whereupon he obtained the disc, only to find that the relevant footage had been overwritten.

It was put to the officer that ultimately it was his responsibility to make sure the evidence was seized, and that although he had made previous efforts to obtain it, by the time he did so it was too late.  As a result the only remaining evidential opportunity had been lost, leaving the officer no option but to close the case.

The Ombudsman judged that the officer had failed in his duty to conduct the investigation in a prompt and thorough manner as required under Article 2 of the PSNI Code of Ethics. 

He was subsequently disciplined by the PSNI as a result of the Ombudsman’s recommendation. 

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