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Police recruit reprimanded after banned driver charges dropped

Published 14/10/2015

Dr Michael Maguire said the officer should be reprimanded
Dr Michael Maguire said the officer should be reprimanded

A police recruit's poor record keeping led to the collapse of a case against a suspected disqualified driver, an investigation has found.

The Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman said the officer had made some serious procedural mistakes and should be reprimanded for failures in record keeping

But Dr Michael Maguire found insufficient evidence to justify disciplinary action for dishonesty.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) decided to drop charges against a motorist accused of driving while disqualified after notes of an interview, in which the suspect allegedly admitted the offence, went missing.

A defence lawyer insisted that his client had admitted to nothing.

In an attempt to clarify the situation, the PPS wrote twice to the investigating officer - who was inexperienced and still in his probationary period.

He failed to respond before reporting sick but discrepancies were discovered in his notebooks.

There was no entry about the interview on the date the officer said it had taken place - instead it was recorded at the back of his next notebook - which was not issued until five days later.

The matter was referred by police to the Ombudsman's Office for independent investigation and a fter returning to work, the officer was interviewed.

He denied dishonesty but accepted mistakes were down to his lack of knowledge and experience.

At the time of the interview, he said his first notebook was full and he had not received a replacement. Instead, he decided to record the interview on a separate piece of paper, which he claimed had been submitted to the team responsible for collating a file for the PPS.

Searches have failed to locate this piece of paper, the Ombudsman said.

He also explained that he had intended to copy his notes into the second notebook but only remembered after he had written other entries into it. He then decided to copy them into the back of the book.

The officer claimed to have informed his supervisor and had been told it was "OK" to do so.

His supervisor, however, said no such conversation had taken place.

The motorist declined to co-operate with the Ombudsman's investigation.

A file was submitted to the PPS which directed that the officer should not be prosecuted.

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