Published Date: 05.08.2015
A police officer and a civilian call handler have been disciplined after a man was arrested and detained over an incident he had nothing to do with.
It follows a Police Ombudsman investigation into a complaint from the man, who was arrested on suspicion of threatening behaviour towards a female. He was detained in police custody for more than 10 hours and his house was searched.
He later made a complaint to the Police Ombudsman’s Office that police had made insufficient checks before arresting him, that the search of his home violated his privacy, and that his detention in police custody had not been properly reviewed.
He added there had been no need to arrest him as he had attended the police station voluntarily.
A Police Ombudsman Investigator looked at police records and established that the situation came about because a civilian call handler had mistakenly recorded the man’s name when in fact the caller had referred to another man with a similar name.
A police officer later spoke to the female victim and asked for more details about what had happened, but failed to ask for a physical description of the suspect.
The officer continued to assume that the suspect was the man whose name had been incorrectly recorded by the call handler, and who was known to police, even when the victim provided information to the contrary.
The officer then went to the man’s home, left a calling card, and when he later attended the station he was arrested and placed in custody.
The Police Ombudsman Investigator recommended that the arresting officer should be disciplined for failing to make adequate enquiries before deciding to arrest the man and bring him to police custody.
The Police Ombudsman Investigator also made the PSNI aware of the mistake made by the civilian call handler when recording the suspect’s name.
Both the call handler and the arresting officer were subsequently disciplined by the PSNI.
No action was taken against the custody sergeant or a senior officer who approved the man’s detention as they had been acting in good faith on the basis of information provided by the arresting officer.