A police officer has been disciplined after a Police Ombudsman investigation found that he had been oppressive in the way he dealt with a woman he considered to have been driving dangerously.
The officer was off-duty when he followed the woman for about 20 miles in Co. Down last October, and later called at her home to advise of his concerns that she had been driving too close to a car in front of her.
By then the driver had gone on honeymoon, and she returned to find a note from the officer asking her to contact him about “a driving matter.”
She phoned the officer who explained his concerns, but told her not to worry as she would not be arrested. He made arrangements to visit her home several days later, told her to have her driving licence and said it would take an hour.
In a complaint to the Police Ombudsman’s Office, the woman said the call caused her considerable concern as she relied on her car for her job.
When the officer arrived at her home, he told her that her driving had been perhaps the worst he had ever seen. He told her that the least action he could take was a “discretionary disposal”, which would not go on her record or result in points on her licence.
The woman said she asked to be allowed time to seek legal advice before accepting, but said this was refused. She said the officer told her that he would be busy over the next few days and could not allow the matter to drag on, and offered to leave her alone for five minutes to think about it.
In her complaint, the woman said: “How was I supposed to seek legal advice in five minutes?”
When interviewed by a Police Ombudsman investigator, the officer accepted that although he considered the woman to have been driving dangerously and feared she would cause a collision, he had not considered reporting the incident so that immediate action could be taken by police.
He added that he had agreed with his supervisor that the woman should be offered a discretionary disposal, though when spoken to the supervisor had no recollection of this.
He also denied having offered the woman only a few minutes to consider whether to accept the discretionary disposal, although the woman’s account was supported by a relative who had also been present.
The Police Ombudsman investigator concluded that the officer had acted oppressively and recommended he be disciplined. The PSNI has since implemented the recommendation.