A police force has been rapped over a “flawed” investigation following a threat to rape a journalist’s newborn son.
Patricia Devlin has had her complaint against the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s response to the threat upheld by the Police Ombudsman.
HTFP reported in June 2020 how Patricia, who won the News Reporter of the Year and the Scoop of the Year titles at the 2014 Regional Press Awards, had previously opened up on numerous threats she had received over the previous 18 months – including one of rape against her baby boy.
Belfast-based Patricia, who works for Sunday World, later lodged an official complaint about PSNI’s handling of the case, saying she was “frustrated by their lack of action to investigate adequately or even bring the suspect in for questioning”.
Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson has now found in Patricia’s favour over the investigation into the “repulsive” threat, adding it was “concerning that police failed to take measures to arrest the suspect at the earliest opportunity”.
The threat was made in a direct message to Ms Devlin’s Facebook account, signed in the name of neo-Nazi group Combat 18.
The Police Ombudsman’s review of the PSNI’s investigation found that police had missed “evidential opportunities”.
It found the officer in question had “failed to take appropriate measures to secure the arrest of the suspect, who lived in another part of the UK”.
Patricia, pictured, told the BBC she hoped the findings would help “anyone else who is reporting threats, especially over social media and in particularly journalists, to help them and the PSNI deal with it better”.
Discussing how the case was handled, she added: “You’re going to the people who are there to protect you and carry out appropriate investigations.
“I’ve had sleepless nights, I’ve had nightmares that no mother should ever have, I felt isolated, I felt hopeless and I felt that no one’s been listening to me.”
The Police Ombudsman recommended that the officer should be disciplined and said the PSNI accepted there had been failings and implemented measures to improve the officer’s performance.
Kevin Winters, solicitor and senior partner at KRW, told the Belfast Telegraph: “KRW have to ask why such selective incompetence was allowed to facilitate the suspect in evading prosecution.
“It is both deeply unsettling that a well-known journalist should be treated in this way by the PSNI and regrettably, on a wider level, it undermines confidence in policing in Northern Ireland.”
A PSNI spokesperson said: “A complaint was made to the Office of the Police Ombudsman, the case was upheld and the matter was dealt with under performance measures.”