Incident Date: Sep 2016
A Police Ombudsman investigation has found that a police officer made “inappropriate and unprofessional comments” after becoming frustrated with a solicitor during a criminal interview.
The incident happened last September, after what the officer described as “an hour and a half of constant interruptions” by the solicitor.
The officer admitted responding to a legal query by challenging the solicitor’s understanding of the law and telling him: “You made a fool of yourself...Any solicitor worth their salt would know that [point of law].”
The solicitor said the exchange was defamatory and had undermined him in front of his client and another police officer.
He raised his concerns with the police custody sergeant, who he also accused of having failed to act in a professional and diligent manner.
A Police Ombudsman investigator seized video footage of the interview and CCTV footage of the solicitor’s discussion with the custody sergeant, as well as relevant police documentation.
The footage showed the officer becoming frustrated with the solicitor, though “not to the point of aggression”.
The officer maintained that his comments were the result of “a graduated response” to the solicitor’s constant interjections, and maintained that he had acted professionally throughout.
He was supported by a colleague who said the solicitor had been “disruptive”.
However, the Police Ombudsman investigator concluded that the officer’s comments had been “inappropriate and unprofessional”, particularly in front of the solicitor’s client.
She recommended that a misconduct meeting should be held and that the officer should receive a disciplinary sanction.
The PSNI considered the matter and determined that the issue was one of performance, rather than a disciplinary matter. It was then referred to the officer’s local authorities to take appropriate action.
The custody sergeant, who had documented the solicitor’s concerns on the custody record, was found to have acted properly in the circumstances.