Police's modified 4x4s like fatal crash one should have been tested, says PSNI chief
Stringent tests on the safety of armoured police Shoguns should have been carried out before their widespread use, the Chief Constable has admitted.
Concerns were voiced regarding the safety of officers in the PSNI's 95 armoured Mitsubishi Shoguns on the back of an inquest into a horrific crash that claimed the lives of four officers in 2008.
While the inquest concluded there was insufficient evidence to firmly establish the cause of the accident, excess weight of the vehicle - its armouring, the men and their control packs - was identified as one of three possible contributing factors.
George Hamilton told members of the Policing Board of a range of safety measures introduced after a thorough review was carried out following the tragedy.
He said, with hindsight, tests on the vehicles after the armour had been fitted should have been conducted before they were rolled out. There were previously 300 Shoguns in use by the PSNI, a figure which has dropped to 95. They will not be replaced when they reach the end of their serviceable lives, Mr Hamilton said.
In a written response on the use of the Shoguns, Mr Hamilton said: "The tragic events of November 23, 2008 represented the single biggest loss of life for the Police Service of Northern Ireland and were followed by a painstaking and wide-ranging investigation which was reviewed by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. The PSNI established a strategic outcomes learning group to ensure any and all lessons were learned and implemented."
He added: "The armoured Mitsubishi Shogun is not in use elsewhere in UK policing with a few small exceptions. This is reflective of the unique policing environment in Northern Ireland for which they were purchased. Non-armoured Shoguns are in use elsewhere in UK policing.
"The specification for the armouring and modification of the Mitsubishi Shogun was undertaken by professional companies to ensure the modified vehicle met the relevant regulations. PSNI Transport Services conducted road testing post-modification.
"The PSNI acknowledge that the full handling tests independently conducted by the Motor Industry Research Association, after this tragic incident, would have been better undertaken ahead of full deployment, notwithstanding that the results of these tests found the handling of the vehicle to be 'acceptable' and that the 'modified' vehicle actually handled better than the non-modified vehicle in wet road conditions."
There is no suggestion of any safety concerns on Mitsubishi Shoguns used by the public or the unarmoured ones used by police.
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Last month an inquest jury was unanimous in its ruling that there had been "a number of unfortunate and concurrent set of incidents" which occurred on November 23, 2008. All of the officers died from the inhalation of fire fumes. The officers who died were constables James Magee (27), Kevin Gorman (24), Declan Greene (39) and Kenny Irvine (30). The inquest heard anecdotal evidence from serving pofficers about concerns over the handling of the armoured vehicle.