Published Date: 30.08.2018
Three police officers have been disciplined over an investigation into a ‘road rage’ incident in Newry in which a woman claimed she was assaulted by a man after he had blocked her car with his vehicle.
The Police Ombudsman’s Office upheld a complaint by the woman after the alleged assailant was issued with a Community Resolution Notice (CRN) as an alternative to prosecution.
The woman said that although she was too distressed to make a statement to police at the time of the incident, she had made it clear she wanted the man prosecuted. She said the constable’s failure to follow up with witnesses and to ascertain the extent of her injuries had meant the allegation of assault had not been fully investigated.
Police Ombudsman investigators upheld her complaint whilst also recommending misconduct proceedings against two sergeants. The constable was found to have failed in his duty to investigate by not conducting proper inquiries before issuing the CRN, whilst the sergeants had failed in their duty to supervise.
The woman told Ombudsman investigators that the incident began after the man accused her of taking his parking space and subsequently parked behind her vehicle, preventing her from moving. When she knocked on the man’s window to ask him to move, she said he struck her by opening his car door before grabbing her by the arm and swinging her against the door of her own vehicle.
A woman who witnessed the incident and phoned the police, supported the complainant’s version of events.
The police officer confirmed to investigators that the woman was in an extreme state of distress when he arrived on the scene and had to be accompanied home where she agreed to make a statement when calmer. Whilst at the woman’s home the constable was informed the suspect had been stopped by other police officers and left to speak to him. He interviewed the man under caution before issuing him with a CRN after discussion with his supervising sergeant.
The constable admitted that he had been unaware of who had reported the incident and had not identified any other witnesses at the scene, nor had he consulted the complainant before issuing the CRN despite being aware of her wishes.
He did not establish the full facts of the altercation and accepted the man’s answers during interview without clarification. He agreed that had he had all the available evidence to hand the man could have been arrested and brought to court.
Investigators also found that two sergeants responsible for supervising the constable did not check his actions in following all reasonable lines of enquiry.
The Police Ombudsman’s Office recommended that these two officers be subject to disciplinary action. The PSNI has since acted on this recommendation and the two sergeants have received management action. The constable was dealt with by way of performance procedures.