Officer failed to properly investigate Belfast attack

Published Date: 15.12.2016

A police officer has been disciplined for failing to take adequate steps to identify a number of people who attacked a man in Belfast last year.

The victim told a Police Ombudsman investigator that despite his attackers having been identified on Facebook and police having been provided with a number of names and a car registration number, only one suspect had ever been interviewed.

A Police Ombudsman investigator examined relevant police records, and found that the investigating police officer had made a number of enquiries, but had failed to progress others.

He did obtain CCTV footage of the incident and circulate pictures of suspects among colleagues in a bid to identify them.

He was also cleared of failing to make enquiries in relation to suspects identified through Facebook. There was no evidence that these names, which the victim’s father said were provided to a member of police staff, were ever passed to the officer.

Officer failed to follow up enquiries around car reported to have fled scene of attack.

However, it was clear that the officer had been given the registration number of a car in which a number of assailants were reported to have fled, but had not properly progressed this line of enquiry.

When interviewed, the officer said he was on restricted duties which prevented him leaving the police station, so he had asked colleagues to call at the address associated with the vehicle. He said no one was in and a calling card was left, but no one had ever called him.

However, he could not remember which officers he had asked to help him, and accepted that he had not made any record of having done so.

He also accepted that he had failed to make additional enquiries such as circulating witness appeal letters or displaying a poster at the scene of the attack.

The investigator recommended that the officer should be disciplined for failing to make adequate enquiries to trace the car or identify witnesses. The PSNI has since implemented the recommendation.

The officer’s supervisor was also disciplined for failing to ensure that enquiries were made in relation to the car.

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