Published Date: 06.10.2016
The PSNI has updated its firearms training following a Police Ombudsman investigation into an incident during which a female police officer accidentally shot herself in the leg while placing her gun into its holster.
The incident happened in a locker room at Strand Road police station in Derry/Londoderry on 18 May 2015. No one else was in the room at the time.
The officer suffered entry and exit wounds to her thigh and was treated by officers who were in an adjacent room and heard the shot.
When interviewed by Police Ombudsman investigators, the officer said she did not have her finger on the trigger at the time and believed it might instead have caught on the lanyard used to attach the weapon to her gun belt.
The weapon was submitted to Forensic Science Northern Ireland for tests, and these showed that the gun could not be inserted into the holster with a finger on the trigger without causing pain. Neither was there anything on the holster which would have caused the discharge.
However, the clip on the lanyard was found to be able to cause the gun to fire when caught within the trigger guard when the weapon was holstered.
It could also not be ruled out that another object or an article of clothing might have caused the weapon to fire.
'No evidence gun had been fired deliberately or as a result of negligence.'
Further evidence suggested the weapon had been fired while in the holster.
Enquiries by Police Ombudsman investigators established that PSNI weapons training focused on the active use of weapons, and that officers were taught not to look at the holster while removing or replacing their guns.
It was also found that police were not taught to check that the holster was clear before holstering in a safe environment.
The Police Ombudsman concluded that there was no evidence the gun had been fired deliberately or as a result of negligence, and made no misconduct recommendations against the officer involved, who has since received firearm retraining.
However, he recommended that PSNI firearms training be amended to advise officers, when holstering their weapons in a safe environment, to check that holsters are clear of obstructions, in particular lanyards.
He also recommended that the training should reinforce that lanyards must also be attached to weapons before they are placed in holsters.
The PSNI has updated its training accordingly.