Six officers have been reported to the Professional Standards Department (PSD) in relation to the handling of the death of Armagh woman Katie Simpson, the PSNI has said.
The confirmation came after police initially refused to answer questions in respect of the Police Ombudsman investigation into the case.
Katie passed away on August 9, 2020, almost a week after allegedly being found hanging by the man now charged with her murder.
He wasn’t arrested until March 2021 following the eventual launch of a murder enquiry, fought for by a small group who refused to accept Katie tried to take her own life.
Concerns raised over the manner in which police failed to properly investigate the death of the 21-year-old were reported to the Police Ombudsman who initially refused to act as the complaint did not come from her family.
This was based on the Ombudsman governance arrangements not permitting the investigation of a complaint against police inaction if the reporting person is not a relative of or acting on behalf of a relative of the victim.
The response was brought to the attention of then Minister for Justice Naomi Long, on the contention the governance presented a potential flaw, particularly against a domestic violence background, where relatives may have been unaware of concerns. It could also suit perpetrators’ agendas to effectively shut down investigations, which they would be unlikely to generate.
A Department of Justice spokesperson replied: “It’s not the case that complaints should only be investigated if the complainant is a relative or acting on behalf of a relative of the victim, since there is the potential for members of the public “who have had occasion to be well informed as to the facts of the incident” to make a complaint.
“By way of example, if a member of the public alerted police to concerns but police failed to act on those concerns then that member of the public would be entitled to complain to the Police Ombudsman and they would consider that complaint if the person had direct knowledge of the matter about which they were complaining.”
In May 2021 the Ombudsman advised an investigation had commenced and “the complaints allege that given the circumstances of Katie’s death, police should have commenced a murder investigation sooner”.
But concerns were raised long before this and included reports to police as Katie fought for her life in intensive care, which were ignored.
Subsequent information following her death was also not acted upon.
A record of contact and information passed to police at Strand Road, Derry/Londonderry was repeatedly requested and when a response was finally received from PSNI headquarters, it contended no indication of this existed.
However, all information pertaining to this, including text conversations and the criminal reference number, had been retained by the reporting person who sent this to the Chief Constable.
Following that, the information in question suddenly materialised, although it was heavily redacted.
The Ombudsman investigation took some time but earlier this year advised a number of officers had been reported to PSD.
The PSNI, however, were not so forthcoming.
When asked to clarify what date PSD received the Ombudsman reports, how many officers this related to and of what rank, a PSNI spokesperson replied: “As there is a Police Ombudsman investigation ongoing, it would be inappropriate for police to comment at this time.”
It was pointed out the investigation concluded with the file being sent to PSD but there was no response.
When challenged again on this point a spokesperson finally confirmed the file relates to six officers: and, “we are currently considering its findings”.
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