Police officer failed to secure evidence

Published Date: Jul 2018

The Police Ombudsman’s Office has recommended disciplinary action against a police officer who failed to secure CCTV footage after a member of the public reported being threatened with a sledgehammer.
The police officer was found to have failed in his duty to investigate after waiting four months to seize the footage despite being instructed by his supervisor to do so on four separate occasions.
On the final time of being instructed to seize the footage from commercial premises in south Antrim, the officer discovered it was no longer available.
His failure to secure the images resulted in the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) directing no prosecution in the case due to a lack of independent evidence.
The man who reported being threatened with the sledgehammer subsequently lodged a complaint against the officer which was upheld by the Office.
The incident, which occurred in June last year, arose out of a dispute over a vehicle purchased by the man at the commercial premises. He alleged that during that dispute the owner of the business had approached him with a raised sledgehammer and told him to get off the premises.
The police officer told Police Ombudsman investigators he had contacted the business owner in the days following the complaint. The owner had admitted ‘seeing red’ and lifting the sledgehammer during the incident and confirmed CCTV footage was available but would need to be downloaded.
A week later the officer contacted the business owner and was again told the footage had not been downloaded. After another week had passed a supervising officer directed the police officer to seize the footage however he made no effort to do so for another five weeks. On that occasion he was told a member of staff was attempting to download the images.
After three further reviews by the police officer’s supervising sergeant in August, September and October, the officer, on being directed to seize the footage, was told it was no longer available.
During formal interview with Police Ombudsman investigators, the officer accepted that he had failed to secure vital evidence which may have led to a decision to prosecute by the PPS.
The Police Ombudsman recommended that the police officer be disciplined for failure in duty. The PSNI accepted there were failures in the police officer’s conduct and its Professional Standards Department undertook to ensure the issues would be dealt with.
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