The Police Ombudsman has said it was fortunate no one was killed when errors by the police led to a failure to identify and warn the target of an imminent bomb attack.
The bomb failed to go off and was found about an hour after police received information about the impending attack. The incident happened in 2014.
Police Ombudsman investigators found that after receiving the call, police failed to make proper enquiries, identified the wrong target and location and warned the wrong person.
The device was defused and was later confirmed to have been viable.
The Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, said: “The outcome of this incident could have very much more serious. The targets of this attack were, in effect, failed by the police. I have recommended that police put in place, as a matter of urgency, measures to prevent a recurrence.”
A warning phone call was received by an external organisation which then tried to contact police through established channels. They were unable to get through and the call was instead transferred to a lower ranking officer.
He made enquiries to identify the intended target and location for the attack, but Dr Maguire said an examination of police records and computer systems showed that these enquiries had been “inadequate”.
As a result, the wrong target and location was identified and inaccurate information was passed to a poiice Duty Inspector.
When interviewed, the officer fully accepted that he had made errors while researching the phone call.
The investigation also established that the designated police phone number called by the external organisation had been temporarily unmanned at the time of the call.
Two supervisory officers later admitted that they had had failed to arrange proper cover to ensure the phone would be answered.
“To prevent a recurrence, I have recommended that police put in place measures to ensure such calls are always answered immediately and dealt with appropriately,” said Dr Maguire.
He recommended that the three officers involved be disciplined. They have each received disciplinary sanctions – although those imposed by the PSNI on the supervisory officers were at a lower level than that recommended by the Police Ombudsman.