A police officer has been disciplined for failing to investigate a traffic accident because she did not realise there had been a collision, an investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office has found.
The officer failed to investigate the incident, involving a motorcyclist and a van driver, because she believed the biker had simply lost control and fallen off while braking to avoid the other vehicle.
The collision happened in Coleraine last November. The motorcyclist sustained injuries requiring hospital treatment and later lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman’s Office about the police investigation of the incident.
He complained that police had failed to record it as a collision resulting in serious injuries, had been sarcastic towards him, and had failed to take breath tests from both parties.
He also said police failed to contact him afterwards to get his account or find out about the extent of his injuries, and accused them of fobbing him off when he raised his concerns.
When interviewed by a Police Ombudsman investigator, the investigating police officer said she had not been informed that the two vehicles had collided, and therefore believed it was a matter for both parties’ insurance companies to sort out, rather than for a police investigation.
She accepted that while she had taken a breath test from the van driver, she had not done so from the motorcyclist as she had not considered it necessary.
She also stated that she had returned some items to the motorcyclist’s wife at the hospital after the collision, but said that she had not spoken to him as he was being treated at the time, and made no further contact to check on his condition.
A statement was also obtained from the van driver, who said he was aware there had been a collision and believed police at the scene had been told. Another police officer confirmed that he had been told at the scene that there had been a collision.
Photographs retrieved from police, taken some weeks after the collision, also showed that the van had sustained some minor impact damage.
The Police Ombudsman recommended that the officer should be disciplined for failing to investigate the collision, and the PSNI has since implemented the recommendation.
The officer’s supervisor was also disciplined after the investigation found that some comments he had made during a meeting with the motorcyclist were not clear or accurate.
The investigation concluded, however, that there was insufficient evidence that police had been sarcastic to the motorcyclist, or that officers had tried to fob him off.
The collision has been reinvestigated by the police, resulting in the van driver being convicted of a driving offence.