Belfast Telegraph

Decision to shoot driver 'flawed'

The actions of a policeman who shot dead the driver of a stolen car were critically flawed, a watchdog has found.

There are also grave concerns whether the officer who killed 23-year-old Steven Colwell in Ballynahinch, Co Down, five years ago as he apparently tried to escape a police checkpoint was suitable for deployment to front line duties, the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman found.

Ombudsman Al Hutchinson added that the policeman's decision to fire two shots created significant risk of further casualties in the April 2006 incident.

"While Steven Colwell's actions were reckless, the critically flawed judgments and actions of Police Officer One played a greater part in Mr Colwell's death," said Mr Hutchinson.

Mr Hutchinson submitted a file to the Public Prosecution Service which ultimately directed that no charges be brought against the officer who fired the shots.

His probe also raised concerns that police call handlers had not dissuaded a relative of the car owner from pursuing the BMW ahead of the shooting.

The ombudsman's investigation examined the circumstances of the death of Belfast man Mr Colwell at a police check point on Easter Sunday morning.

Three officers in the town who had been informed that a stolen BMW was heading in their direction set up a road block outside the police station. Mr Hutchinson questioned this initial decision given church services were happening in that area and a lot of people would have been around.

Mr Hutchinson noted that many of the 30 witness statements made by members of the public supported the police actions and that they were alarmed by the danger presented by the BMW driver.

But the ombudsman said forensic evidence contradicted the police officer's account of what happened.

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