Police Ombudsman recommends action after drink driver evades prosecution

Published Date: Aug 2016

The Police Ombudsman has recommended that the PSNI should issue guidance to police officers after a man who was three times over the drink driving limit evaded prosecution on a legal technicality.

The man failed a breath test after crashing his car in Co. Fermanagh last October. He was arrested and placed in police custody.

However, when the case later went to court, the charges were withdrawn over a legal technicality concerning his admission that he had been driving.

The admission was deemed to be inadmissible as the arresting officer had not yet cautioned the driver when he asked him whether he had been driving the crashed vehicle.

Legally this was regarded as an interview, which should only have happened after caution.

The driver later lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman’s Office alleging that if he had not been properly cautioned, his arrest and detention must also have been unlawful.

But, after interviewing the arresting officer, reviewing police documentation, and speaking to the lawyer who had represented the Public Prosecution Service during the court case, a Police Ombudsman investigator concluded that the driver’s arrest and detention had been appropriate.

Rejecting the driver’s complaint, the investigator said: “It is not in dispute that he significantly failed a breath test, and in the circumstances his arrest and caution were justified.

“What is of concern is that the police officer’s error in failing to implement the correct procedure resulted in a driver who was approximately three times over the legal limit avoiding prosecution.

“Consequently a policy recommendation has been made to the PSNI to remind officers of this legal technicality to avoid drink drivers avoiding prosecution in the future”

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