Published Date: 20.04.2017
Two police officers have been disciplined after a Police Ombudsman investigation found failings in the police investigation of an arson attack in Co. Antrim in the summer of 2014.
The investigation found that police failed to take statements from a number of potential witnesses and submitted an incomplete file on the case to the Public Prosecution Service.
The issue only came to light almost two years after the attack when these witnesses - relatives of the victim of the attack who had not been kept updated by police - contacted the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) for information.
When they were told the case was shortly due to go to court, they contacted the Police Ombudsman’s Office to complain that the file submitted by police to the PPS must be incomplete.
After examining police records and confirming that to be the case, a Police Ombudsman investigator alerted the PPS. The PPS then directed the police to take the statements, which were provided to the court as late evidence.
At the subsequent hearing, the man accused of the arson attack was convicted and given a suspended prison sentence.
Officer's decision not to take a statement - because he did not think it would contain relevant evidence - was wrong.
Enquiries by the Police Ombudsman investigator found that one of the statements had not initially been supplied by police because the investigating police officer did not think that it would contain relevant evidence.
“This was not his decision to make,” explained the Police Ombudsman investigator. “The officer should have taken a statement and left it to the PPS to decide on its relevance.”
The officer also failed to progress a number of other enquiries before going on sick leave a number of months after the arson attack.
The officer appointed to take over from him also failed to complete a number of enquiries, despite being directed to do so by his supervisors. These included taking one of the statements which then had to be submitted as late evidence.
The original investigating officer has since left the police and as a result, no disciplinary action could be taken against him. However, a supervisor who failed to direct him to take a statement from one of the witnesses, has been disciplined for this omission.
The second investigating officer has also been disciplined for failing to conduct enquiries as directed by his supervisors.