Police right to authorise damage to vehicle blocking fire engine

Published Date: 13.06.2017

An investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office has rejected a claim that police failed to make reasonable efforts to avoid having to damage a parked car which was blocking a fire engine on its way to a blaze in Portrush over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.

A man complained that police had not tried hard enough to find the car’s owner before allowing a window to be broken so that it could be pushed out of the way.

He said that despite claiming to have knocked on all doors in the area in a bid to find the owner, police had not called at the second floor apartment in which he was staying.

He also claimed that an officer had been condescending and rude towards him, telling him that it was a life and death situation, even though nobody had been evacuated from the building next door to the fire.

The man also stated that the officer had advised him that police would not pay for repairs, and said he had been left to spend his holiday trying to get the car fixed so the members of his party could travel home safely.  

However, when a Police Ombudsman investigator examined police records, he found that the fire had been classed as a major incident and had been attended by all three emergency services.

Residents of a nearby care home had been moved to the ground floor of the building, and steps had been taken to prepare for a full evacuation if necessary.

Steps had been taken to prepare to evacuate a care home if the situation worsened.

Police records also showed that there had been a fear of buildings collapsing. A larger fire appliance had been deemed necessary in order to douse flames at the rear of the burning property.

The investigator found that police had made reasonable efforts to locate the owner of the car. Its details were checked, and when the owner was found to be from outside the area, officers knocked on doors and spoke to people in the surrounding properties before authorising that the window could be broken.

The investigator commented: “This was a fluid incident with a genuine risk to life and property and quick, decisive action was required by police. In the short time available to them, they took reasonable measures to avoid having to damage the vehicle.

“In the end, the seriousness of the situation left them with no choice. Once access was provided for the larger appliance, the Fire Service was quickly able to get the fire under control. ”

The senior officer, who denied having been rude or condescending, was also able to produce documentation showing that he had advised the complainant to get the car fixed and submit the invoice to police for payment.

The investigator concluded that there had been no misconduct in the way police had managed the incident.  

Twitter home