PSNI officer sacked for dishonesty over accidental firearm discharge sees judicial review application dismissed

A PSNI officer has lost a High Court challenge to being sacked for dishonesty over the accidental discharge of his weapon.

The officer claimed that the decision to remove him from the force was unlawful and procedurally unfair.

But a judge rejected his request for judicial review on the grounds that he had an alternative remedy by seizing the Police Appeals Tribunal (PAT).

In January 2020, the officer, who is not named for security reasons, accidentally discharged the firearm while removing it from a holster at his home.

He was required to report the incident to his superiors, but did not do so at the time.

Two months later, security personnel discovered the worn casing while unloading the weapon at an officer training facility in Belfast.

Later that day, he informed his supervisor of the envelope but denied responsibility for any accidental discharge.

During further questioning, the officer said he found a bullet lodged in the floor of his home.

He told his supervisor he would ask his family if they could explain it, suggesting his son may have been responsible for the release, the court heard.

Disciplinary proceedings against the officer led him to both admit to the careless discharge of his firearm and to dishonestly deny the incident.

In November 2021, a panel appointed by the Chief of Police issued a written warning for discharge, but dismissed him for gross misconduct in not telling the truth.

He challenged the dismissal decision, citing non-compliance with applicable regulations and injustice.

The officer alleged that a police inspector had unequivocally promised him that if he confessed and apologized he would not be fired.

Although he admitted that the misconduct warranted a sanction, he argued that any disciplinary action should amount to dismissal.

Lawyers for the police chief rejected claims of unfairness and argued that the officer’s challenge should instead be taken to the PAT.

As the appeal to this body was adjourned pending the outcome of the case, Judge Quinlivan held that another remedy was available.

“In real terms, it is arguably more efficient in terms of access to the remedy requested by the petitioner than this tribunal, given that this tribunal is not an appellate court,” she said.

The officer may still be able to start new judicial review proceedings if he fails in this court, the judge pointed out.

Rejecting his legal challenge, she confirmed: “I am not convinced that the applicant’s case
falls into an exceptional category allowing him to seek review without having first appealed to the Police Appeals Tribunal.