Investigative failures into road accident which left motorcyclist hospitalised for a month

Published Date: 23.08.2018

A police officer has been disciplined over investigative failures into a road accident which left a motorcyclist requiring several operations and being hospitalised for a month.

The collision between the motorcycle and a car took place in County Armagh in July 2016 with its investigation referred to the Police Ombudsman’s Office by the PSNI the following March. Referrals to the Office can be made by the Chief Constable where concerns have arisen over police actions.

The Police Ombudsman recommended disciplinary action against the officer after identifying a number of failings in his handling of the case. These included not having taken a statement from the motorcyclist until three months after the incident; failing to request consent for access to medical records in a timely manner; failing to apply properly for the medical records; and not maintaining proper police records.

Investigators also found that, on the balance of probabilities, the officer was responsible for incorrectly completing a form which stated the rider had been breathalysed at the scene of the accident. The constable had told investigators that he hadn’t remembered filling in the form which incorrectly stated the motorcyclist had been breathalysed and that another officer may have been responsible.

The police officer had also failed to criminally interview the driver of the car involved in the collision despite being directed to do so by his supervising officer. The car driver was only interviewed when another officer was charged to take over the case.

When the car driver was spoken to by Ombudsman investigators, he declined to make a statement, instead referring to an email he had sent to the police investigating officer in the days after the accident. This email, in which the car driver claimed the motorcyclist had been speeding, referred to CCTV footage of the incident.

An audit of emails showed that the police officer did not receive this email but had received another email detailing the car driver’s attempts to contact him. Emails between the officer and the motorcyclist’s partner arranging to take the motorcyclist’s statement were also found. However, the officer did not keep these appointments and they were not filed in police records.

The police officer told Ombudsman investigators he did not think it was appropriate to interview the motorcyclist while he was in hospital and that further appointments had been missed because of other duties.

He added that he had not interviewed the car driver as he had been waiting on medical records for which he had belatedly requested consent. He admitted this was an error on his part although not intentional.

The medical records were only properly applied for when a new supervising officer took over the case in December.

The Police Ombudsman recommended disciplinary proceedings which resulted in disciplinary action against the officer by the PSNI’s Professional Standards Department.

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