27/05/2015

Two Police Officers Disciplined Over Report Of Indecent Approach To Children

Two police officers have been disciplined following a complaint about a police response to reports that a man had approached three young girls and asked them to touch him in east Belfast last year.

The Police Ombudsman Office received a complaint from the father of one of the young girls, which questioned how police had responded to the reports and also alleged they had failed to secure CCTV footage from the Beersbridge Road area.

The Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, found that police subsequently went to great lengths to find this man, without success, but the efforts had been undermined by a number of failures in the early part of the investigation.

Police Ombudsman investigators examined all police documentation, listened to phone calls and police radio transmissions, visited the scene of the reported incident and spoke to a number of people, including the mother of one of the young girls.

They established that police received a 999 telephone call at 16:26 hrs on 4 August last year telling them a man had just approached and exposed himself to the girls, who were each aged about seven years old, asking them to touch him. The caller advised that the man had ran off towards the river.

However, police received a second call 32 minutes later telling them he was still in the area.

Police correctly entered the details of the initial call on the computer systems and circulated the alleged offender’s description within two minutes of receiving the report.
News Image
However, they gave the computer entry a grading which indicated that while the issue had a degree of importance, it did not require an emergency response.

Following the second call, the police officer's supervisor directed that the matter be dealt with as an emergency and a police vehicle be sent to the scene.

"The police dispatch officer failed to assign police officers to the call and failed to consider the young age of the girls and the fact the alleged perpetrator had left the scene.

"This report required police to attend immediately; regrettably this did not happen. Police lost 32 minutes in responding to the call and with this an opportunity to apprehend the man," said Dr Maguire.

Police Ombudsman investigators established that the officer who was tasked with investigating this incident had technical difficulties getting CCTV footage from a nearby petrol station.

They found that she failed to ask for the necessary technical help from colleagues or to explain the urgency of the task, all of which contributed to a delay, during which time the footage was automatically wiped clean.

Investigators also identified CCTV footage from a nearby shop which had been overlooked. They alerted police officers to this material, which was then seized.

The Police Ombudsman said that despite a thorough investigation from this point onwards, no one was apprehended in relation to the reports of the indecent approach to the children.

The police dispatch officer and the Investigating Officer have both been disciplined.

(CD)

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

05 April 2019
Man, Woman & Child Threatened By Gang
A man, woman and a young infant have been threatened by a gang of masked men during an incident last night, Thursday 04 April. Five masked men entered a house in Mountjoy Street, north Belfast while armed with metal bars and a suspected firearm.
17 April 2019
Youths Admit To Causing Fire At Belfast Play Park
Two young people aged 11 and 13 have admitted to damaging equipment at Avoniel Play Park in east Belfast. The children were spoken to in the presence of their parents and admitted to being behind the incident which occurred earlier this week. They have both now been referred to the Youth Diversion Officer.
06 August 2014
Police Vehicle Contracts Arrest - Man Released
A 54-year-old member of police staff who was arrested in County Antrim as part of ongoing investigations into the awarding of vehicle contracts has been released. The man was arrested on suspicion of misconduct in public office and has been taken to a police station in Belfast for questioning.
28 March 2007
House of Lords vote for ‘50/50’ police force
The House of Lords has renewed the 50/50 recruitment rule for the PSNI by a majority of 44. It puts into practice a recommendation made in 1999 by Lord Patten that the local police force should be split evenly between Catholics and Protestants. The result of the vote was 141 to 97.
03 July 2007
Man questioned about 1988 murder
A man has been arrested in connection with police inquiries into a murder in 1988. The body of Lily Smyth, 66, was found in her flat at Moveen House in Dunmurry on October 9, 1988. The pensioner had been strangled. A police spokesperson said that a 43-year-old man had been arrested and is being questioned at Antrim Police Station.