Belfast Telegraph

Lost by the police: guns, ammunition and vital evidence

The PSNI has come under fire after it emerged that guns, ammunition and potentially crucial witness evidence have been lost by officers.

The catalogue of missing equipment also includes police lists of offenders and statements — prompting fears that information could fall into the wrong hands.

Documents reveal that the PSNI’s Professional Standards Department — which investigates disciplinary issues — dealt with 22 cases in the past three years.

The figures, released after a Freedom of Information request, come just weeks after the PSNI was accused of “appalling carelessness” after losing a canister of CS spray in Strabane.

Earlier this year a Glock pistol and 11 rounds of ammunition were lost on a road.

While the firearm was recovered, the bullets were not.

Another pistol and 17 rounds of ammunition stolen during a burglary at an officer’s home in 2008 were not recovered, while three police notebooks have still not reappeared after being mislaid on a street earlier this year.

Also this year, police lost a witness statement and video recording — neither have been found.

Two witness statements which disappeared from a PSNI station in 2007 also remain outstanding.

And a list of “priority offenders” also went missing two years ago but was later recovered.

Policing Board member Jimmy Spratt said all incidents needed to be fully probed.

“This is grave and the errors behind these losses need to be examined,” he said.

“While people lose things from time to time, when munitions and so on go missing, it needs to be rigorously investigated. It is worrying. I think the PSNI needs to learn from every mistake and make sure the systems are tightened up.”

Sinn Fein Policing Board member Daithi McKay said officers who lose vital equipment should face sanctions.

“The major concern is when items of a confidential nature or weapons and ammunition are mislaid,” he said.

“There is an onus on the Chief Constable and police service to ensure robust mechanisms are in place so that, when these incidents do occur, officers are dealt with appropriately. The nationalist community has long been concerned about police documents falling into the wrong hands, and that is another reason why the Chief Constable needs to treat this as a priority issue.”

A PSNI spokesman said: “Police officers must take due care with all equipment and must ensure that any property in their possession is handled and maintained as required by law and in accordance with police service policy, and any loss of property must be reported.

“In addition staff may also be subject to formal disciplinary proceedings.”

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