Belfast Telegraph

PSNI officers disciplined for flawed probe into GAA fire

By David Young

Five police officers have been disciplined after an arson attack at a GAA club was wrongly blamed on an electrical fault.

An examination by the Police Ombudsman found that officers failed to properly investigate the crime at the Sean Dolan clubhouse in Londonderry in December 2011.

Dr Michael Maguire particularly highlighted a failure by police to note a number of figures and flashing lights in CCTV footage of the incident.

"The initial investigation lacked leadership, direction and supervision," he said.

A senior member of the club told the ombudsman's office that in the wake of the fire he met two police officers and Fire Service investigators at the scene, who told him there had been no sign of a forced entry and that the fire may have been caused by an electrical fault.

The next day he said a constable and Fire Service investigators told him they were almost definite the fire had been caused by an electrical fault and that there was no indication of a crime.

The club member said the police officer contacted him later that day and, having watched the footage from the CCTV cameras in the clubhouse, reiterated his view that the premises had not been deliberately set on fire.

The police later issued a press release stating that the cause of the fire was not suspicious.

Two members of the club subsequently collected the CCTV footage from police and said that on it they observed "shadowy figures" and a number of bright flashes from within the building.

They then contacted members of Sinn Fein, who arranged a meeting with senior police officers, and together they viewed the footage.

The following day police issued a fresh public statement indicating they were now treating the fire as arson.

Dr Maguire recommended that the detective sergeant and the seconded constable be disciplined for their failure to investigate the fire properly and that a duty sergeant and two detective inspectors also face discipline for their failure to supervise and guide the investigation.

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