PSNI failed to deal properly with death threat before man ‘brutally murdered’, says Police Ombudsman

The Police Ombudsman has found that the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) “failed to deal properly” with intelligence that a Carrickfergus man was to be shot dead, resulting in a failure to warn him about the threat before he was brutally murdered.

Jan 22, 2024
By Paul Jacques
Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson

The intelligence was received three days before the body of 47-year-old Glenn Quinn, who had been beaten to death, was discovered at his home in the town.

Police officers found the body when they forced entry to Mr Quinn’s house shortly before 6.30pm on January 4, 2020. They were responding to information that he had been assaulted with baseball bats and had sustained head injuries and a broken arm.

Mr Quinn had been named in intelligence from an anonymous source, which had been received by officers shortly after 11pm on January 1, 2020. The intelligence referenced his name and home address and stated that he was to be shot dead at the property.

The Police Ombudsman, Marie Anderson, said her inquiries had established that Mr Quinn had not been informed about the threat as he had not been associated on police systems with the address provided in the intelligence.

“This led to police failing to identify him as a target,” said Mrs Anderson. “However, if police had visited the address it is likely that they would have been able to confirm that he lived there, which would have verified the credibility of the threat.

“This would have led to Mr Quinn being given a threat warning notice which would have provided him with an opportunity to consider police advice in respect of appropriate precautionary measures.”

Mrs Anderson said visiting the address was “a reasonable line of inquiry that police ought to have pursued.

“In failing to do so it is my view that the officers involved failed to follow relevant PSNI procedures and comply with the Article 2 right to life requirements as reflected in that policy.”

The Police Ombudsman recommended that one duty inspector should be disciplined for this failing, and said she would have made a similar recommendation about a second duty inspector if that officer had not retired before the conclusion of her inquiries.

However, after considering the evidence submitted by the Police Ombudsman, the PSNI decided that the serving officer had no case to answer for misconduct and should not be disciplined. Instead it directed that the officer should receive additional training when it became available.

Mrs Anderson expressed disappointment that her disciplinary recommendation had not been accepted “given the significance of the failings identified”.

She noted, however, that the PSNI had accepted her recommendation for the introduction of formal training for police officers required to make critical ‘life and death’ decisions while responding to suspected death threats.

“I recommended that police should ensure that officers making such onerous decisions should receive training appropriate to the role,” said Mrs Anderson. “I welcome that police last month commenced this essential basic training.”

PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Chris Todd said: “First and foremost, on behalf of the Police Service, I want to apologise to the family of Glenn Quinn for the shortcomings in the handling of the threat assessment in the days leading up to his murder. My thoughts are with Glenn’s family at this difficult time.

“Those responsible for the brutal and senseless murder of Glenn need to be brought to justice and I would appeal for anyone with information to come forward in confidence.

“The Police Service accepts the learning highlighted by the Police Ombudsman during her investigation and we have now implemented recommendations to ensure that incidents of a similar nature do not occur again.

“Formal training for officers required to make critical life and death decisions while responding to death threats has now been introduced.

“In addition, instructions have also been issued to those involved in the management of threats to reinforce the importance of ensuring that all feasible operational steps are taken to mitigate the threat and ensure a consistent approach to the assessment of threat messages. We must be a learning organisation and I take responsibility for that.

“The confidence of the communities we serve is at the forefront of our minds. Keeping people safe will always be our priority and how safe people feel is an important factor in their quality of life.

“I want to reassure the public that our officers and staff are working around the clock to prevent crime and harm to individuals, protect the vulnerable and detect those who commit crime and bring them before the courts.

“Policing is a human endeavour and sometimes mistakes are made. The scale and complexity of this work is exceptionally challenging.

“Intelligence is not an exact science and police often have to work off a partial picture.”

The Police Ombudsman’s investigation established that the intelligence about the threat to Mr Quinn had been reviewed by two duty inspectors who each assessed that it did not constitute “a real and immediate threat to life”.

The duty inspector who initially received the intelligence noted that it was from an anonymous source, that the name and address it mentioned did not match information on police systems, and that there had been many similar reports from the same area.

The officer, who is now retired, assessed that it did not represent a “real and immediate threat to life” and advised that rather than tasking out of hours resources to further research the intelligence, it should be revisited in the morning, the Police Ombudsman said.

The inspector forwarded the Crimestoppers report to an officer responsible for the Carrickfergus area and instructed that police patrols should give “passing attention” to the address mentioned in the threat message.

Inquiries by Police Ombudsman investigators confirmed that a police patrol visited the area shortly afterwards.

The Crimestoppers report was next assessed shortly after 10.30am on January 2, 2020, by an intelligence researcher. The researcher noted that it was “impossible to accurately confirm who the intelligence refers to” and that there was “no obvious link” between Mr Quinn’s name and the address provided in the report.

However, the researcher considered that the report would benefit from being considered again by another senior officer from the local area, and described taking the “unusual decision” of referring it for reconsideration by a second duty inspector. The task was allocated to a second duty inspector shortly before 2pm on January 2, 2020.

At 4.24pm that day, the inspector recorded that there was no need for police to take any immediate threat management measures, noting: “The ID of the male is not known, it is an untested source, any motive is not clear, there is no timescale, no location and little other information to corroborate the document. I have no information to suggest [Mr Quinn] is in any immediate risk of harm.”

The inspector also made a note of having considered tasking officers to call at the address given in the threat message, but having decided not to as it might cause unnecessary concern to anyone living there.

Mrs Anderson said that despite this concern, police should have visited Mr Quinn’s address to allow them to verify the credibility of the threat.

“It is regrettable that police failed to take this appropriate next step,” she said.

However, she welcomed the PSNI’s acceptance of a recommendation to ensure a consistent police approach to the assessment of threat messages.

The PSNI also advised that it had suitable measures in place in relation to a third recommendation about when it is appropriate for officers to task out of hours enquiries to intelligence researchers.

Mr Todd said the police investigation into the “brutal murder of Glenn Quinn” is ongoing and is appealing to anyone who has any information that can assist to contact detectives in the Major Investigation Team.

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