Belfast Telegraph

Crash probe unit 'faces burn-out'

A special police unit set up to investigate fatal road collisions could face burn-out if it has to probe other serious car crashes, it has been claimed.

A slimmed down collision investigation unit based in Antrim began work in June this year - two years after it was first agreed to, the Criminal Justice Inspectorate added.

The workload based on previous years' figures could mean each officer investigating 12 fatal collisions a year, the report said.

"If this is the case, the capacity for officers to look at serious (near fatal) collisions will be very limited if 'burn-out' is to be avoided," the review said.

The creation of roads investigation teams was put on hold for a year after a business case was rejected. In the interim period there was a rethink in how the units should be resourced. When a less ambitious business case was submitted in 2009 it coincided with a freeze on recruitment to specialised departments like roads policing. This meant the units would have to be resourced from within the roads policing budget.

Despite these obstacles, a team was established at Steeple base in Antrim. There are five constables and one sergeant. A total of 14 officers are due to be appointed to two groups, with the other based at Mahon Road, Portadown, Co Armagh.

There were 105 fatal collisions resulting in 115 deaths during 2009, an increase on the 2008 figures where 98 fatal collisions resulted in 107 deaths. This was the first time in 10 years that fatalities had increased.

These results were mirrored in the number of seriously injured people, which increased from 990 in 2008 to 1,035 in 2009.

This year's statistics so far show road deaths at their lowest levels in living memory, less than half of the total for the same period in 2009.

The inspectorate has welcomed other progress made by the Police Service of Northern Ireland over the last two years.

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