In 2008, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary wrote a Report after an inspection of the PSNI professionalism in Roads Policing. The Report was later presented to Parliament and other interested parties. The Inspectorate assesses Police Forces throughout the United Kingdom to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of the Police.
Their Report into the professionalism of the PSNI in dealing with serious road crashes resulted from, together with three other fatal crashes, an investigation into the crash on the Steeple Road involving my brother and the Police handling of it.
I will quote from that Report.
Two senior Investigating Officers (SIOs) of the Team wrote the following :-
4.19 The main findings can be summarised a follows:
- Designated SIOs not physically attending Road Traffic Collisions( RTC) scenes (attended by just 40% of case files examined).
- Specialists not attending many RTCs (mappers attended 30% of scenes and Forensic Science Northern Ireland (FSNI) scientists attended 10% of scenes examined).
- Lack of training for investigating officers
- Lack of audit trail in terms of vehicle examinations
- low number of photographs taken at scene.
- Poor quality witness statements with several based on “hearsay”
- Evidence trails not fully explored or developed to logical conclusion, e.g. forensic leads such as defective tyres not investigated thoroughly to exclude/confirm as potential causation factors
- Poor prosecution judgements based on inadequate evidence collection and presentation.
The main finding of the fieldwork is the poor quality of the evidence being presented to the PPS(Public Prosecution Service) for criminal prosecutions and to the Coroner for inquest adjudications. This is supported by HM Coroner who has written to the Chief Constable in response to concerns expressed by barristers and families asking why the investigation was not done to the standard that is normal in Great Britain.
One Roads Policing officer who had visited a force in GB said “the way we investigate fatals here is prehistoric”.
The PSNI response to these findings is positive with the senior management team agreeing to establish a dedicated collision investigation. The Service has agreed to identify best practice from other Police Forces. It is planned that the unit will be operational within two years with appropriate resources and staff, training and policy framework.
This Report by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate reflects everything that I found in examining the case on behalf of my family. The Report recognises the PSNI’s lack of training and professionalism in dealing with serious road crashes. The police agreed, in reply to this Report, that they would upgrade their investigative techniques but not much has appeared to have happened in the last 10 years. This is borne out by the number of officers disciplined for incompetence or investigated by the Police Ombudsman.It seems to me that, just as they often ignore the police Ombudsman they will probably have ignored the recommendations of the Inspectorate.
The Police have yet to prove that they are a fit and honest organisation to professionally report on serious road crashes. Until they can do so then I recommend that anyone caught up in one for whatever reason should arrange a parallel and independent investigation from the outset. Just imagine what the Police should do and then do it with professionalism.
In my case, the Police were not only incompetent and unprofessional as the Report says, they were also corrupt and criminal for reasons other than to cover up their incompetence.
In the next few posts I will concentrate on my dealings with the Forensic Science of Northern Ireland (FSNI) and their involvement in the case but I will certainly be returning to many other aspects of the Police later.
To introduce the next series of posts I quote from the Inspectorate Report:
The PSNI contract with PSNI stipulates that scientists are required for 1100 hours per year which equates to approximately 80-90 fatal collisions. This means that not all collisions will have a forensic scientist and it is rare that they are called to serious collisions. The decision on whether to attend a scene is left to the scientist rather than to the SIO. SIOs did emphasise the benefits and expertise that highly trained FSNI scientists bring to an investigation and there is little doubt that trained Forensic Collision Investigators are a key element of RTC investigation. There does however remain a gap in terms of being able to forensically re-construct a scene.
In the rest of the UK, a Forensic Scientist will invariably be called to the scene of a fatal crash.