Police failed to prevent theft of items from doctor’s damaged car

Published Date: 26.07.2018

A Police Ombudsman investigation has found that police failed to take reasonable measures to prevent valuables being stolen from a doctor’s car which had been damaged near Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital.

The officer was with a colleague on the Grosvenor Road in February last year when they saw the vehicle with its hazard lights flashing. A window had been broken, and important personal items were seen inside.

The officers left the car unattended as they went to find the doctor. When they returned two more windows had been broken and the items inside, which included a wallet, had been stolen.

The doctor subsequently made a complaint to the Police Ombudsman’s Office, alleging that police had failed to take reasonable steps to protect his belongings.

When asked by Police Ombudsman investigators why she decided to leave the car unattended, one of the officers said it was the only practical way of contacting the doctor, who she believed was working within the hospital.

She said his mobile had gone to voicemail, and as she knew the hospital switchboard would be busy, she had not called it.

She added that she had tried to reach the valuables, some of which were in the driver’s door pocket, but had been unable to do so.

The officer also stated that she did not believe other police units in the area would have been able to help as she had heard a series of radio transmissions which suggested that they were all busy dealing with other incidents.

Police Ombudsman investigators examined police radio transmissions and GPS tracking of police movements in the area during the time in question. They found that a number of police units had been in the immediate vicinity of the car and may have been able to assist.

The Police Ombudsman recommended that both officers should be disciplined over their handling of the incident. The PSNI accepted that there had been failings by the officer who decided to leave the car unattended, and its Professional Standards Department undertook to ensure these issues would be dealt with.

No action was taken against the other officer, who played only a supporting role during the incident.
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