Police Ombudsman slams PSNI assault investigation as 'appalling'
A police officer has been disciplined for conducting what has been described as an "appalling" investigation into an allegation that a man struck a teenage girl in the face with a golf club.
A report into the incident was compiled by the Police Ombudsman after a complaint by the girl's mother.
The girl reported that the assault happened in north Down in late 2014.
Prosecutors dropped the case 18 months later as the officer had not submitted medical records or witness statements.
"We will never know what decision the PPS (Public Prosecution Service) might have reached if the investigating officer had conducted a full and prompt investigation," a Police Ombudsman investigator said.
The Ombudsman report indicated that the incident happened after the girl was involved in a fight with the man's daughter.
It said that the girl's mother had described the incident as having a "profound and ongoing impact on her daughter" but that the officer had "failed to obtain all relevant evidence and had not responded to her calls or pleas for him to progress the case".
'Lack of progress'
The report said that, at one stage, the girl's mother arranged for a witness to be at her house to submit a statement at the same time the officer was due to take a DNA sample from her daughter.
However, the officer failed to turn up and the mother said she had not heard from him since.
The Police Ombudsman investigator said that the officer failed to obtain forensic evidence from the golf club and independent witness evidence, both of which were vital to the case as there were conflicting witness reports as to whether a golf club had been used.
The investigator also pointed out that the PPS had remarked on the poor quality of the file submitted by the officer and the slow response to requests for more information.
"The lack of progress in the investigation speaks for itself," said the investigator.
"The officer failed to speak to witnesses and to follow up on evidential opportunities and generally failed to take action until directed to do so by his supervisors.
"Even then his response was unusually tardy."
The PSNI has confirmed that the officer has been disciplined following the Ombudsman's report.