A Police Ombudsman investigation has found that a police officer acted contrary to the advice of the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) when he gave a man accused of assault an immediate caution.
The man had been arrested on suspicion of assaulting a young person at a bus station in Fermanagh in June 2015.
Following the arrest, the arresting officer contacted a Public Prosecution Service prosecutor to discuss whether a caution via the Immediate Diversion Scheme might be an appropriate way of dealing with the allegation.
The prosecutor told him an immediate caution could not be authorised at that stage. He advised the officer to interview the suspect and check with the alleged victim’s parents whether they would be happy with an immediate caution.
He also advised the officer not to mention the possibility of a caution as it could be interpreted as offering an inducement for an admission, and told the officer to contact him once he had completed further enquiries.
The prosecutor subsequently received a text message from the officer advising that the young person’s parents were opposed to an immediate caution being given to the suspect.
The prosecutor received no further contact from the officer until he received a file from police two weeks later which showed that the suspect had been given an immediate caution. The report also stated that both police and the PPS had been agreeable to proceed with the caution.
The PPS subsequently asked the Police Ombudsman to conduct an independent investigation into the officer’s conduct.
During their enquiries, Police Ombudsman investigators examined CCTV footage of the suspect’s time in custody at Enniskillen police station. They found no evidence that the officer had offered him any inducement to admit the offence and accept a caution, and no evidence of criminal conduct by the officer.
However, it was clear that the officer had acted against the advice of the PPS prosecutor and had falsely recorded that authorisation had been given for the immediate caution.
The officer had previously been disciplined following an internal police investigation into his conduct, and no further disciplinary recommendation was made by the Police Ombudsman.