The Police Ombudsman and the Falsified Police Timings

 

 

The police had recorded in their Report that the collision had occurred at 1450, and that they had been informed at Antrim Police Station at 1453, after admitting to the Ombudsman that the initial entry of 1543 was a typing error.

 At the very start of my investigation I was told that Carson was speaking to his wife on his mobile when the crash occurred and that she had heard it happening, It was also confirmed to me by an additional impeccable source.

I asked the police to investigate the allegation. They had reported back to me that they had indeed checked Carson’s call record and had found no evidence that Carson had been using his mobile at or around the time of the collision.  But when they made that statement, they were lying. They had in their possession a written statement from Carson stating that his records showed that he had made a call at 1448 just two minutes before the reported time of the collision  of 1450. As argued in the previous chapter the collision was probably within 30 seconds either side of 1449. Sgt McBride had interviewed Carson about this, had checked his phone, and accepted Carson’s second written statement some 6 weeks after the crash in which he accepts that he phoned his wife  then but it was well before the crash, and he argued that the recorded crash time of 1450 was wrong. This second statement was withheld from both me and the Police Ombudsman until  5th November 2005 and well after Mr Meehan of PONI had written his Report dated July 2005. Clearly Mr Meehan was lied to by Sgt McBride  and Inspector White when asked about this and Carson’s second statement was buried. Subsequently, other Police were roped in to spin a fantastic web of falsehoods in order to support their colleagues’ initial falsehoods.

It seemed to me that the current Chief Constable was happy to go along with the fairytale. I found his attitude strange because it was the same Chief Constable who invited everyone in his Force who weren’t able to properly fulfil their obligations as Police officers to consider resigning.  In my various submissions to the PSNI I gave him a list  of officers who could and should be removed unilaterally by him. As it has turned out he chose to keep them in place and instead use his Legal Branch to warn me off should I chose to take the matter to Court. Much of that will be dealt with in a later post.

The holder of the office for the first six years of this case was Sir Hugh Orde. I will be seperately detailing his response and  level of involvement in a later post.

 My solicitor wrote to the PSNI asking for the time when the police were first told of the accident. In December we received a reply from the Station Sergeant Gavin Jones in Belfast Regional Control, the Emergency Call Centre in Castlereagh , which said:

“I am the custodian for all recording equipment installed at Belfast Regional Control, the main police control room for the Urban region. I have checked the said equipment and can confirm that the initial 999 call in relation to the unfortunate road traffic Collision referred to was received on 11th November 2003 at 1443 hrs.”

This meant that the crash had been reported 7 minutes before the crash occurred at 1450, which was clearly nonsense. All of the independent witnesses, the Fire Brigade, the Ambulance and the many Police officers had claimed that the accident had occurred about 1450 in their written statements. Sgt McBride had told the Ombudsman that the time of the first report to Antrim Police station was 1453 even though he had recorded it as 1543. The new time of 1443 conflicted with the evidence of all of them. The only person who could agree with the new time of the crash was Carson as it fitted in with his assertion in his second statement.

 Frankly I was dumbfounded. Up to this point, I could have convinced myself that the problems with the police investigation could be explained away by incompetence or inexperience. Now it was clear to me that matters had just taken a sinister turn to something much more serious and more Officers were being dragged into making false evidence.

I immediately contacted the Police Ombudsman and asked him to investigate this. I included all the evidence about the mobile call and explained my concerns about the change of time to 1443.

I heard back from Mr Meehan of PONI on 19th January that he had received an Audio copy of the 999 call from Regional Control. He confirmed that the first call was made at 1443.  He also said that he was not aware of Carson’s second statement until I had told him.

I asked PONI to recheck the tape as I couldn’t accept that they had received a call at 1443 when there was overwhelming evidence that the call was at 1449. He phoned me back at the end of March to say that he had rechecked the tape and agreed that the tape had not indicated the time of the call, and that he had in fact got that information from a statement he had taken from the Station Sergeant of the Control Centre. He went on to say that the call was a male but he wasn’t allowed to give me his name. Curiously, he asked me to discuss this matter with the Coroner and if there was still any doubt about the veracity of what the Station Sergeant had told him, he would have further discussions with his manager with a view to physically checking the records at the Regional Control office.

 

If Carson was using his mobile phone at the time of the crash, that alone, without any other offences such as speeding or ill fitted tyres, would be sufficient to charge him with causing death by dangerous driving.

 

This is what I knew at the time of challenging the Police and the Ombudsman :

  • The first police car was close to the scene when they were tasked to attend according to Witness 4’s  statement. The driver states that he arrived at the scene at 1459 when he received the call to attend at 1455.
  • Witness 1 was the first civilian to arrive at the scene and from the Antrim side. He immediately called the Ambulance before getting out of his car and that call was received in their Emergency Control Centre at 1449. Their emergency calls are automatically timed and recorded using the National (Atomic) Clock. The equipment is checked weekly and any time variation would be “limited to seconds.” The first call to the ambulance centre was not made by the Police, so it can be deduced that the police controller waited at least 6 minutes before calling the ambulance if he had received a call at 1443. I am told it is standard operating practice for the Police Controller to first inform the Ambulance Service on receipt of a call about a serious road accident.
  • Witness 4 was the first male driver at the scene from the Kells. He called Police emergency on his mobile. His phone records showed that he made the call at 1449. His call lasted one minute and 6 seconds.
  • Witness 2 was in the process of making her call to the police at the Emergency Control Centre but her call was after witness 4’s call.

 I found a casualness in the way the police recorded the time of events with much use of the words “about” and “approximately” even though they are trained in the important evidential requirements of accurate times. However, even allowing for that, the initial set of Police, and Ambulance recorded times matched with a true initial report time of 1449.  To accept the new time of 1443, one would have to accept that the emergency operator took 7 minutes to call the ambulance and 12 minutes to inform the first police car or 10 minutes to make the call if Sgt McBride’s Report was to be believed. This would be totally unacceptable if it were true and would demand an investigation in its own right.  Such a delay would also have implications for the survival of my brother at the scene.

I came to the firm conclusion that the time of the first emergency call to the Police had been changed  deliberately from 1449 to 1443 and that Sergeant Jones was most likely the prime suspect in corrupting the truth. Only he or the instigator would be able to state who originated the false statement.

 In May 2006, I wrote to PONI and asked them to inspect the records at the Control Centre personally and not to rely on the Station Sergeant’s uncorroborated word.

Mr Meehan wrote back about two weeks later to say that he had visited the Control Centre and the Station Sergeant had shown him the 999 Emergency log.  He confirmed that the call had been made at 1443 hrs and 49 secs. He said the data was saved on a hard drive and couldn’t be tampered with.

 

As it turned out later, I recovered the mobile bill from O2 for witness 4 who was the first male driver from the Kells end of the crash site and who phoned the Police. He was in fact the “secret” caller who couldn’t be disclosed to me by the Ombudsman. His phone bill shows that he made a call to 44112 at 1449 and the call lasted 1minute and 6 seconds.  It would be easy for the Ombudsman to check if the recording given to him lasted 1 minute and 06 seconds. That would conclusively prove beyond reasonable doubt that the call was made at 1449 and that the Police had interfered with the computer. Isn’t it strange that the number 49 appears in both numbers ? ODD ! !

 

I didn’t know of what the log consisted. It might have been a written list of calls or printout of a file from the computer.

I consulted with a very experienced computer expert and she said that it was a simple matter to change the time of a file and she demonstrated this to me with a few clicks on the mouse, changing the file time with ease. She went on to say that although the file time was changed, the hard drive would register both the original and the change and an expert could recover that change without much difficulty.  As it was, Mr Meehan did not have that expertise and had again accepted an unsubstantiated conclusion.

I wrote to the Ombudsman and sent him a copy of an amended  sample file prepared for me by the IT consultant for demonstration purposes and explained the ease with which it could be done according to her.  I told him that the matter could only be resolved by a careful examination of the hard drive by an expert. He wrote back in October 2006 to say that he was seeking advice from Senior Management as to how best to proceed.

When I had heard nothing more the middle of December 2006, I phoned him and he told me that although it may be the case that the  audio file and the hard drive had been interfered with, there was not sufficient cause for them to use their resources to find out. He also said that in any case the Police may not agree that being on the mobile caused the accident. I told him that the collision had several causes including excess speed and reversed tyres. He went on to say that only one call was forwarded to the Control Centre and it  might well be that witness 2’s was diverted to the local Police Station. I was not sure that was true, but clearly he was not shown Witnesss 2’s call. He phoned me back in the middle of January to say that the Station Sergeant was wrong to say that the hard drive could not be tampered with.  Presumably he had been making some enquiries for himself and found the fatal flaw in his original statement.

Mr Meehan was then away from work on compassionate or sick leave and I didn’t hear from him again until May 2007. 

If the Ombudsman could not inspect the hard drive for unlawful changes the Police would have to do so. I asked him if he had informed the police that his resources were not sufficient to carry out the inspection, but he waffled a bit but didn’t give me an answer. I assumed he hadn’t.

At our meeting at the end of July I met  with Mr Kane (a pseudonym) from the West Midlands Police, I put to him the apparent delay of up to 7 minutes and 12 minutes of the emergency controller calling the ambulance and the police if the time was 1443. He did not think that would be possible. As will be shown in a later post, Mr Kane was found to be an expert crash examiner and a man of integrity who had been seconded to PONI from his own Constabulary in order to bring a higher level of expertise to that organisation. He did his best to find the truth and refused to be browbeaten by either the PSNI or any staff at PONI.

It was December 2007 before I heard from Mr Meehan that he hadn’t  informed the police of his lack of resources to carry out a full investigation of the alleged altered time. He also agreed that he did not inform police that it would have to be done by them.

Clearly the allegation I was making about the Police falsifying evidence was very substantial and I was strongly suggesting that at least two police officers must have conspired to change the time of the first emergency call – the officer who requested it and the officer who carried out the deed.  There could easily have been more involved. If the Ombudsman didn’t have the resources to investigate it, then the police should.

I immediately wrote to the Chief Constable and stated my case.  (As far back as April 2007, I had written and told him that the Ombudsman was unlikely to be able to investigate it.)

I told him that if the time of 1443 was to stand, then arrangements should be made for my legal team to interview the controller involved so that we could establish why there was such a delay between the receipt of the call and tasking the Services, as this delay could have had serious implications for the survivability of my brother and that this would  have to be explored by the Coroner.

On 29th January 2008 I received a reply from Chief Inspector Philip Knox for the Chief Constable. It  said :

“Your letter to the Chief Constable dated 6th December 2006 refers.

I am informed by the Police Ombudsman Investigating Officer that he personally attended Belfast Regional Control to check the Command and Control System. He reviewed the audio and emergency call and confirmed that the emergency call was made at 1443 hrs. The Emergency Recording System is time coded from a satellite source and cannot be amended by Police. It is my understanding that it is the timings on this Emergency Recording System which are the source of contention, i.e. allegedly changed, post incident, from 1449 to 1443. The technical view provided to me is that this is not possible.

I am advised that the PONI Investigator has addressed the issues that you have raised in previous correspondence with you.

I hope this is of assistance to you.”

I did not receive a copy of the letter referred to but if Mr Meehan had said that he had fully addressed the issue, then he was not telling the whole story, because he had agreed with me that the hard drive could be tampered with. He also had made clear that he didn’t have the resources to fully investigate the .allegation. If he did tell the writer the truth, then it must be the writer who is being disingenuous or was reading a different letter provided by Mr Meehan.

As I found out much later the letter referred to was probably one dated13th March 2007 and written by Mr John Clerkin who was a PONI Deputy Senior Investigating Officer standing in for Mr Meekin who was indisposed. It was accepted later by the Ombudsman that he had been inadequately briefed and the letter was withdrawn

I had arrived at a position where the Ombudsman could not investigate my complaint but decided he had to accept the word of the Station Sergeant; the Police would not investigate the complaint but could hide behind the Ombudsman’s non investigation. The system was seriously flawed. It seemed that two non investigations added up to one dismissal of the complaint and this was considered a resolution of the allegation. The problem is if it was shown that I am right, then the police can alter the times of any emergency call any time and for any reason should they choose to do so and there is no redress by a complainant.

I knew it was futile, but I wrote again to the Ombudsman. He had spoken to me in February 08 and suggested that he might still find the resources to properly examine the police computer for changes. I was sure that such resources would not be forthcoming and I was to be proved right. Just a day or so later he wrote, without qualification, to the Coroner that the Police Report was factually based.

Finally, he wrote a letter to my solicitor on 28th May 2008 saying that he had attended the Control Centre and had been assured by the Station Sergeant, by the provision of clear evidence, that the dates and timings of emergency calls couldn’t be altered on the system that was operated. He reinforced this by saying that the Station Sergeant was willing to appear at any potential hearing in this respect. 

He said nothing of his lack of resources to investigate the matter properly, and he didn’t say that his conclusions should be read with that very important caveat. His technique of only telling half the story was similar to his letter to the Coroner dated 18th February 2008.  Just as the first Ombudsman’s Report was used by Police to justify their inaction, I knew that this letter would ensure that no further action would be taken by Police to investigate the change of time.

It seemed to me that unless there were sufficient grounds to justify disciplinary or Court proceedings, the Ombudsman was obliged not to express any merit in the original complaint or to express any reservations or limitations about his findings.  If there were insufficient grounds to justify disciplinary action then the final Report was to be sanitized.

I came to the conclusion that it had been a serious error of judgement to involve the Ombudsman at all because all I had done was to give the Police a perfect reason to ignore their failings in the investigation because they could rely on the Ombudsman’s Reports to say that since no disciplinary action was recommended  they were without fault.

THe Ombudsman’s Office was a waste of time. They didn’t have the resources or will to find out the truth. I submitted several questions to the PSNI under the Freedom of Information Act.

The questions and answers were as follows :

Question 1. In your Emergency Centre in Belfast Regional Control, what is the source of incoming calls?

Answer 1. For the purpose of telephone call logging all timings are referenced to the BT network. This is received by landline at Police headquarters and broadcast to all telephone exchanges on the PSNI Digital Telephone Network. The time reference then forms part of the telephone call record which is passed to our central call logger. For the purpose of telephone voice recording for all ‘999’ calls and Call Management Centres we receive time code via GPS-8 satellite receivers attached to each evidential recorder system.

Question 2. Is the atomic clock involved?

Answer 2. Yes.

Question 3. Are time inputs received by landline to your computer?

Answer 3. See answer 1

Question 4. Are satellites involved in any way and if so, How?

Answer 4. See answer 1

I interpreted this to mean that the emergency calls to Police were timed by the same atomic clock as the Ambulance Service, and it was the same source used by the mobile phone companies.

In my view, the satellite system is a red herring. The reader may interpret it differently because I am no expert in such matters.

The final episode of the story of the timing of the crash will be concluded in the next post. If you enjoy fantasy horror stories then you should try not to miss it.

 

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