PSNI officers disciplined for their handling of a suspected sex offender

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Two PSNI officers have been disciplined for their handling of a suspected sex offender.

Failures in the early investigation meant a man who allegedly exposed himself to three young schoolgirls was never caught, a watchdog has found.

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire said: “This report required police to attend immediately; regrettably this did not happen.

“Police lost 32 minutes in responding to the call and with this an opportunity to apprehend the man.”

The alleged incident happened at Beersbridge Road in east Belfast last August.

In a 999 call, it was claimed the suspect had approached the girls, all aged seven, exposed himself and asked them to touch him.

Despite circulating his description within two minutes, the case was not prioritised as an emergency.

It was only after a second call was received advising the alleged offender was still in the area that a police vehicle was sent to the scene, the Ombudsman said.

Also, CCTV footage from a nearby petrol station was not retrieved and the tapes were automatically wiped while further footage from a shop was overlooked.

The Ombudsman was asked to investigate after a complaint from one of the girls’ fathers.

Investigators examined all police documentation, listened to phone calls and radio transmissions, visited the scene of the reported incident and spoke to a number of people, including the mother of one of the alleged victims.

The police dispatch officer and the investigating officer were both disciplined.