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Police officers disciplined for failing to report Mairead McCallion head injury to doctor

Mairead McCallion died from bleeding on the brain in February 2014

Published 23/06/2016

Killed: Mairead McCallion
Killed: Mairead McCallion

Two police officers have been disciplined after they failed to get medical attention for a woman who died from a head injury that she received during an assault.

Mairead McCallion died from bleeding to the brain on 24 February 2014.

The 36-year-old was allegedly assaulted by her partner the day before at a house in Castleview Court in Omagh.

She told police that he had grabbed her by the hair, struck her head against a wall and thrown her outside into the garden but the police officers did not tell a doctor that she had suffered a head injury.

The Police ombudsman said that the two officers who had taken her statement had a duty to inform the doctor.

Police officers are trained to immediately seek medical advice when dealing with a possible head injury.

The police doctor who carried out the examination said he had not been made aware that the woman, who had been drinking, had suffered a head injury.

After the woman had been seen by the doctor and had her injuries photographed, two police officers set off in a police car with the intention of taking her to a friend’s house.

One of them was the officer the woman had initially spoken to about the head injury.  She told Police Ombudsman investigators that by that stage the woman had become more unsteady on her feet and was “less chatty”.

The other officer, who was unaware of the head injury, said the woman appeared very intoxicated and recalled saying he was surprised the doctor had allowed her to leave the police station in that condition.

A short time later the woman was sick in the back of the police car and the officers called an ambulance. She was taken to hospital, but died the following afternoon.

The Chief Constable referred the police handling of the incident to the Police Ombudsman for independent investigation.

The Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire said it was clear the officers who knew the woman had sustained a head injury should have informed the police doctor and colleagues.

He said: “It was inappropriate that the officers put the onus on the woman to pass on the details of her injuries in an unfamiliar setting to an unfamiliar doctor, especially in light of the fact she was apparently intoxicated.

“Head injuries can cause symptoms similar to alcohol intoxication, and as the woman had been drinking, it was particularly important that the doctor was informed about the head injury.

“It is also clear that one of those officers, when she noticed changes in the woman’s communication and demeanour, should have reassessed whether further medical care was required before driving her to her friend’s house with the intention of leaving her there.”

As well as recommending disciplinary action against two police officers, Dr Maguire also recommended that the PSNI should review the practice of people with injuries being taken to see a police doctor rather than to hospital.

Officers reported that they did this to prevent delays in obtaining medical reports. Dr Maguire recommended that police consider providing guidance to officers on what to do in such situations.

The PSNI has since disciplined both officers.

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