Two police officers and a civilian member of police staff have been disciplined after searches of a man in police custody twice failed to find concealed drugs.
The Police Ombudsman’s Officer revealed that it happened in April last year after the man had been arrested over a domestic incident in south Down.
Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire said the fact the man had been able to take drugs into police custody “could have had life-threatening consequences”.
In a statement, the Ombudsman’s Office revealed that the Chief Constable asked Dr Maguire to independently investigate after the man was found to have drugs in a cell at Lurgan police station, and after his subsequent transfer to Dungannon police station.
Enquiries found that the man had drugs paraphernalia – a grinder and snap bags – when first searched before being taken to a cell at Lurgan police station.
He was searched again several hours later after a blue pill was found on the floor of his cell by an officer accompanying a police doctor who had gone to examine the man.
Two packets of tablets were found in a trouser pocket and more tablets in his socks.
He was then transferred to Craigavon Area Hospital and taken to Dungannon custody suite after his release the following morning.
Before being taken to his cell, he was strip searched. A small packet of blue tablets fell out of the right leg of his jogging trousers, and a small packet of white powder fell out when he was removing the trousers.
The Police Ombudsman recommended that the officer who oversaw the booking in process at Lurgan custody suite should be disciplined for failing to order a more thorough search, given that the man appeared to be under the influence of drugs and had drugs paraphernalia in his possession.
The civilian detention officer who searched the man before he was taken to his cell at Lurgan custody suite was also disciplined for failing to conduct a sufficiently thorough search, as was the officer who searched the man after drugs were found in his cell at the same station.
Dr Maguire also recommended that the civilian detention officer should undertake additional training in conducting thorough searches of detainees.
The PSNI has since implemented the recommendations.