Published Date: 13.10.2016
Two police officers have been disciplined after the Police Ombudsman found failings in the way police investigated an incident which left a teenage boy fighting for his life.
The boy suffered serious blood loss and life changing injuries after severing an artery on a plate glass window in County Antrim in 2011.
His mother lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman’s Office several years later, alleging that police had failed to properly investigate whether her son had been deliberately pushed through the window.
First 999 call reported that boy had been pushed through window. In a second call he was reported to have kicked it.
The initial 999 call made by one of the five friends he had been with at the time of the incident indicated that he had been pushed through the window. However, a second 999 call several minutes later reported that he had kicked it.
His mother expressed concern that the police investigation had been closed down after two weeks despite having been told that her son had denied kicking the window and had a memory of being pushed.
She also alleged that police had failed to ensure his phone was properly examined, and may therefore have missed evidence of why he might have been pushed.
In addition, she said the size of the hole in the window was more consistent with her son having been pushed through it, rather than having kicked it.
When interviewed, the investigating police officer accepted that the case had been quickly suspended pending new evidence. However, he said he had done so only after making a series of enquiries which satisfied him that there were no issues of concern requiring further investigation.
He said the only indication that the boy had been pushed was the initial 999 call, and there was a valid reason why the subsequent accounts referred to the window having been kicked.
He said the boy who made the 999 calls had explained that the injured boy did not want to get into trouble for kicking the window and had asked him to say he had been pushed.
Nevertheless, the Police Ombudsman’s investigation found a number of issues with how the officer dealt with the case.
Examination of text messages should have covered a broader timeframe.
There was found to have been only a limited examination of text messages exchanged between the boys who had been at the scene. The investigator concluded that the examination should have covered a broader timeframe to check for evidence of why the boy might have been pushed or whether the boys had conferred over their accounts.
• photographs of the scene were lost, which was a concern given that the case had been filed pending further evidence.
• there was no forensic examination of the window to establish whether damage caused to it was consistent with the boy having been pushed through it,
• a statement was not taken from a witness, despite the officer’s contention that her account offered nothing of evidential value,
• the officer should have gone to the scene on the night of the incident, given the early indication that the boy had been pushed,
• and he should have made greater efforts to interview the injured boy, despite the officer’s contention that the boy’s mother did not wish him to be interviewed, and the fact his injuries could cause him to become confused.
The officer’s supervisor was also found to have not properly supervised the investigation.
No evidence was found to support concerns that the police investigation had been compromised as a result of links between police officers and the families of two of the boys who had been at the scene.
The PSNI has since implemented the Police Ombudsman’s recommendation that the investigating officer and his supervisor should both be disciplined for their handling of the case.
During the course of the Police Ombudsman’s investigation, the PSNI made additional enquiries on the case, but found no evidence to change the outcome of the original investigation.