Published Date: 14.04.2016
Two police officers have been disciplined for failing to properly investigate a woman's claims that her sister had committed a fraud involving thousands of pounds of her father's money.
The woman contacted police to allege that her sister had been given around £7,000 by her father to lodge in his bank account, but had instead lodged the money in an account of the same name belonging to her brother.
When interviewed, the officer admitted that he had not secured any documentary evidence - such as bank statements - of where the money had gone before closing the case.
Instead, he said he had been told by the sister that she had a bank statement which would prove her innocence, and he had spoken to Social Services who told him they had seen a copy of the statement.
He added that he had been told by a supervisor to close the case as it was a civil matter.
The Police Ombudsman investigator concluded that these enquiries were insufficient.
"Despite the fact the accused actually offered to provide a bank statement to prove her innocence, the officer did not take her up on this and closed the case without having seen any firm evidence to support her account," he said.
Case was closed without firm evidence for doing so.
"The supervisor was also culpable in directing that the case should be closed at that stage."
Further enquiries were carried out after a second supervisor reviewed the investigation following a complaint, and these verified the suspect's account. The Public Prosecution Service directed that she should not be prosecuted.
The investigating officer also admitted making a comment to the woman who made the allegations, along the lines of: "You should be ashamed of yourself for fighting over your father's money when he's not even dead yet."
He apologised if the comment had caused offence, but did not believe it to have been inappropriate.
The Police Ombudsman investigator strongly disagreed, and concluded that the comment had been "completely inappropriate".
The PSNI has since implemented a recommendation that the officer should be disciplined over the comment, and both he and the original supervisor on the case should be disciplined for failing to properly investigate the alleged fraud.