Northern Ireland

Police Ombudsman finds phone destroyed by mistake

The family of a woman who took her own life suffered "unnecessary distress" when her phone was destroyed in error by police, an investigation has found.

The Police Ombudsman found an officer had mistakenly authorised destruction of her possessions once they were no longer required for an inquest.

Dr Michael Maguire said: "The phone contained photographs, videos and other information that are now lost forever.

"That is something I know has caused significant pain and anguish."

'Disposed of'

The woman was in her 20s and died in County Antrim last year.

A lawyer for her family said they had been waiting to find out when they could collect the phone, and were unprepared to learn it had been destroyed.

The investigating officer had told a Police Service of Northern Ireland property manager that the case was closed and personal effects could be "disposed of".

The officer later told Police Ombudsman investigators that she believed "disposed of" meant the items would be returned to her.

Dr Maguire expressed concern at her suggestion, and said it was unrealistic for her to expect the property manager to check first with her before carrying out her instructions.

"While the officer is remorseful about the distress that has been caused, the fact remains that she failed in her duty of care to this family," he said.

The officer has since been disciplined by the police, following a recommendation by the Police Ombudsman.

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