A police officer has been disciplined over a mistake which led to armed police being deployed to the wrong address during a search of a family home in Co. Down last year.
A man lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman’s Office stating that he had arrived home to find police in the garden of his home.
He said he was searched and made to wait while armed police with shields and firearms moved towards the house. He added that his wife was in the garden at the time and was hysterical.
The man was then taken inside his house and arrested in connection with a firearms offence which had happened the previous day, before being taken into custody at a local police station. He was later released when police realised he was not the person they were looking for.
The man later lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman’s Office, stating that he had been wrongfully arrested and that his home had been unlawfully searched.
When a Police Ombudsman investigator examined police files, he found that the issue lay with an incorrectly recorded date of birth in a handover information pack provided to the officer who organised the search.
The officer who compiled the pack had recorded the name and address of another man of the same name, but had mistakenly added the complainant’s date of birth.
The officer who co-ordinated the search said she checked the details in the handover pack, but found no one of that name living at the address.
She then searched for a more up-to-date address using the complainant’s name and date of birth, which resulted in his arrest and home being searched.
The officer who recorded the wrong date of birth admitted his mistake and apologised to the complainant and his family for the upset and annoyance which resulted.
Police later tracked down the right man, who was subsequently arrested.
The Police Ombudsman investigator said: “The mistake had unfortunate consequences for the man and his family. I recommended that the officer should receive a disciplinary sanction, and that has since been imposed by the police.”