Two police officers disciplined after collapse of crash court case

Published Date: Feb 2020

Two police officers have been disciplined over failings in the investigation of a head-on collision near Lisburn in January 2018.

It follows a Police Ombudsman investigation into a complaint from a driver who suffered a broken wrist and ankle in the crash.

She complained after the collapse of a court case against the other driver, who was acquitted of causing grievous bodily injury by careless driving.

The complainant stated that it had become clear during the court hearing that the investigating police officer had failed to carry out a number of “fundamental investigative actions” at the incident scene and in follow up enquiries.

She also alleged that the officer’s manager had not properly supervised the case, given that the investigating officer had only three months experience at the time of the incident and had never before investigated an injury road traffic collision.

A Police Ombudsman investigator interviewed the police officer who was in charge of the investigation, and obtained accounts from a witness and other police officers who had been at the scene.

Accounts were also taken from the barrister who presented the prosecution case at court and the Judge who heard the case.

Officer failed to take notes and measurements at crash scene.
The Police Ombudsman investigator identified a number of failings including the investigating officer’s failure to take any measurements, or note the position of the cars or condition of the road surface at the collision scene.

She also failed to take useable photographs or to check either car for mechanical malfunction.

In addition, she failed to check whether either driver had been using their phones immediately prior to the crash, and did not follow her line manager’s instruction to interview the suspect driver under caution. Instead she stated that she had recorded a witness statement from him under caution.

Enquiries also showed that the police officer did not take a statement from a witness until 10 months after the collision. By that stage the witness, who had spoken to the suspect driver shortly after the crash, could not be sure of exactly what had been said.

The Police Ombudsman investigator said these failings had “had a negative impact on the court proceedings” and concluded that the investigation “was not conducted in a prompt, thorough, impartial and careful manner.”

She also found that the investigating officer’s line manager had not given her “the support and professional guidance required for a probationary officer conducting her first injury road traffic collision investigation.”

The Police Ombudsman recommended that both officers should be disciplined, and the PSNI has since implemented the recommendation.
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