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Officer was justified in driving on wrong side of the road during Emergency Response

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A Police Ombudsman investigation has concluded that a police driver was justified in driving on the wrong side of the road, despite a complaint that he almost caused a collision.

A pedestrian alleged that the police car had been driven dangerously when it pulled out of a line of stationary traffic, forcing a car travelling the other way to swerve and a lorry to brake heavily to avoid a collision.

The complainant said the police car had its sirens and flashing lights activated and travelled on the wrong side of the road for “about two car lengths” before pulling back to the correct lane.

The incident happened in Belfast in June last year.

Police Ombudsman investigators identified and interviewed the police driver, who said he had been responding to a nearby emergency at the time.

He said traffic in his lane was nose to tail while the opposite carriageway was empty, and had given “careful consideration” before deciding to cross into the opposite lane.

The officer denied having driven dangerously or having placed anyone at risk.

Enquiries showed that the officer had recorded in his notebook that while responding to an incident he had activated his vehicle’s blue lights and driven against the flow of traffic.

Police documentation also confirmed he had been responding to a nearby emergency. GPS tracking data showed that the police car had averaged just under 23mph while on Stockman’s Lane, with a maximum speed of 27.4mph.

Concluding that the manoeuvre had been justified in the circumstances, the Police Ombudsman investigator noted: “The police driver was responding to an emergency. A delay in responding may have resulted in further crimes being committed and decreased the chances of capturing suspects.”

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