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Officers disciplined over failure to properly investigate attack on woman

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Two police officers have been disciplined for failing to properly investigate an assault on a woman in Co. Derry/Londonderry in the autumn of 2014.

She reported that a man had punched her in the face in an apparently unprovoked attack after she left a bar in the early hours of the morning.

She later lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman’s Office that police had failed to interview witnesses and potential suspects, despite being given their names, and had failed to keep her updated on the progress of their enquiries.

The Police Ombudsman’s investigation upheld the woman’s complaint, finding that the case had been closed without key investigative actions having been taken.

It also found that the officer failed to advise the victim that the investigation had been concluded.

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire said: “I was concerned that the investigating officer failed to conduct some basic enquiries, and effectively let down a woman who was traumatised by what happened to her.”

Examination of police records showed that the investigating officer made insufficient efforts to locate CCTV footage, and was too quick to rule out two potential suspects. Neither was interviewed and the officer did not meet them face-to-face to check their descriptions against those provided by the victim and another witness.

Instead, he discounted one on the basis of a police photograph, and ruled out the other after speaking to the man’s mother, who said he did not match the description.

He also failed to contact two named witnesses, stating that their evidence would not have progressed his enquiries – a view rejected by the Police Ombudsman’s Office.

A representative from a local women’s support group which helped the woman and kept notes of calls that the investigating officer failed to return, said the case was unusual as police normally responded straight away.

The officer, however, insisted that he treated the incident seriously and would have made an arrest if there had been a definite suspect.

His supervisor admitted failing to properly oversee the investigation. He explained that he was a trainee at the time, had yet to be trained in some aspects of his new role, and had placed too much trust in the investigating officer.

The Police Ombudsman investigator recommended that both officers should be disciplined, and the PSNI has since implemented the recommendations.

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