Police officer caused collapse of prosecution

Published Date: Jan 2019

A man escaped prosecution because a police officer wrote statements on behalf of colleagues and submitted them to the Public Prosecution Service without their knowledge, a Police Ombudsman investigation has found.

The man was due to be prosecuted after struggling with police who had stopped him on suspicion of drugs offences in Cookstown in December 2015.

No drugs were found, but he was arrested for obstructing police and possession of a blade. A file was submitted to the Public Prosecution Service, which directed that he should be prosecuted for the offences.

A court date was set and a summons was sent to one of the officers whose statement had been included in the prosecution file. The officer realised that he had never written the statement and advised his supervisor.

The PSNI’s Discipline Branch then launched an investigation which established that the statement was one of two which had been submitted to the PPS without the knowledge of the officers who were supposed to have written them.

After discovering the statements, the PPS withdrew the prosecution and the Chief Constable referred the matter to the Police Ombudsman for independent investigation.

When Police Ombudsman investigators interviewed the investigating officer who submitted the file, he explained that he had written the statements himself on the basis of information contained in police records after the officers involved had failed to supply them.

He said he had intended to get them typed and signed by the officers, but forgot and included the handwritten versions in the PPS file by mistake.

He added that the statements were not related to the offences the man was to be prosecuted for, but were instead about property which had been seized after the man was unable to prove that he owned it. They were included in the PPS file for information only.

The officers in whose names the statements had been written confirmed that they were factually correct, but said they were unaware that they had been submitted to the PPS on their behalf. 

The Police Ombudsman recommended that the investigating officer should be disciplined for creating statements in the name of other officers, and thereby causing the collapse of a planned prosecution. The PSNI has since disciplined the officer.
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