Glenn Quinn murder: PSNI failed to deal properly with death threat

Published Date: 21.01.2024

The Police Ombudsman has found that the PSNI failed to deal properly with intelligence that a Carrickfergus man was to be shot dead, resulting in a failure to warn him about the threat before he was murdered.

The intelligence was received three days before the body of 47-year-old Glenn Quinn, who had been beaten to death, was discovered at his home in the town.

Police officers found the body when they forced entry to Mr Quinn’s house shortly before 6.30pm on 4 January 2020. They were responding to information that he had been assaulted with baseball bats and had sustained head injuries and a broken arm.

Mr Quinn had been named in intelligence from an anonymous source which had been received by police shortly after 11 pm on 1 January 2020. The intelligence referenced his name and home address and stated that he was to be shot dead at the property.

The Police Ombudsman, Mrs Marie Anderson, said her enquiries had established that Mr Quinn had not been informed about the threat as he had not been associated on police systems with the address provided in the intelligence.

“This led to police failing to identify him as a target,” said Mrs Anderson. “However, if police had visited the address it is likely that they would have been able to confirm that he lived there, which would have verified the credibility of the threat.

“This would have led to Mr Quinn being given a threat warning notice which would have provided him with an opportunity to consider police advice in respect of appropriate precautionary measures.”

Mrs Anderson said visiting the address was “a reasonable line of enquiry that police ought to have pursued.”
Police should have visited address given in threat message. 

“In failing to do so it is my view that the officers involved failed to follow relevant PSNI procedures and comply with the Article 2 right to life requirements as reflected in that policy.”

The Police Ombudsman recommended that one Duty Inspector should be disciplined for this failing, and said she would have made a similar recommendation about a second Duty Inspector if that officer had not retired before the conclusion of her enquiries.

However, after considering the evidence submitted by the Police Ombudsman, the PSNI decided that the serving officer had no case to answer for misconduct and should not be disciplined. Police instead directed that the officer should receive additional training when it became available.

Mrs Anderson expressed disappointment that her disciplinary recommendation had not been accepted “given the significance of the failings identified.”

She noted however that PSNI had accepted her recommendation for the introduction of formal training for police officers required to make critical ‘life and death’ decisions while responding to suspected death threats.

“I recommended that police should ensure that officers making such onerous decisions should receive training appropriate to the role,” said Mrs Anderson. “I welcome that police last month commenced this essential basic training.”

Officers judged that threat did not represent a “real and immediate threat to life”

The Police Ombudsman’s investigation established that the intelligence about the threat to Mr Quinn had been reviewed by two Duty Inspectors who each assessed that it did not constitute “a real and immediate threat to life.”

The Duty Inspector who initially received the intelligence noted that it was from an anonymous source, that the name and address it mentioned did not match information on police systems, and that there had been many similar reports from the same area.

The officer, who is now retired, assessed that it did not represent a “real and immediate threat to life” and advised that rather than tasking out of hours resources to further research the intelligence, it should be revisited in the morning.

The inspector forwarded the Crimestoppers report to an officer responsible for the Carrickfergus area and instructed that police patrols should give “passing attention” to the address mentioned in the threat message. 

Enquiries by Police Ombudsman investigators confirmed that a police patrol visited the area shortly afterwards.

The Crimestoppers report was next assessed shortly after 10.30am on 2 January 2020 by an intelligence researcher. The researcher noted that it was “impossible to accurately confirm who the intelligence refers to” and that there was “no obvious link” between Mr Quinn’s name and the address provided in the report.
Police identified 'no obvious link' between Mr Quinn and the address given in the threat. 

However, the researcher considered that the report would benefit from being considered again by another senior officer from the local area, and described taking the “unusual decision” of referring it for reconsideration by a second Duty Inspector. The task was allocated to a second Duty Inspector shortly before 2pm on 2 January 2020.

At 4.24pm that day, the inspector recorded that there was no need for police to take any immediate threat management measures, noting: “The ID of the male is not known, it is an untested source, any motive is not clear, there is no timescale, no location and little other information to corroborate the document. I have no information to suggest [Mr Quinn] is in any immediate risk of harm.”

The inspector also made a note of having considered tasking officers to call at the address given in the threat message, but having decided not to as it might cause unnecessary concern to anyone living there. 

Mrs Anderson said that despite this concern, police should have visited Mr Quinn’s address to allow them to verify the credibility of the threat.

 “It is regrettable that police failed to take this appropriate next step,” she said.

However, she welcomed the PSNI’s acceptance of a recommendation to ensure a consistent police approach to the assessment of threat messages.

The PSNI also advised that it had suitable measures in place in relation to a third recommendation about when it is appropriate for officers to task out of hours enquiries to intelligence researchers.

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