Northern Ireland news

No disciplinary action taken against police officers chasing driver of stolen car who killed Lisa Gow

Mother-of-two Lisa Gow, who died after being hit by a car on the Ballysillan Road in North Belfast s
John Breslin

TWO police officers involved in a high speed chase that ended in the death of a young woman were not disciplined by the PSNI.

Mother-of-two Lisa Gow (32) died after being struck as she walked on a footpath on the Ballysillan Road in April 2018. She was hit by a stolen Audi driven by Martin Alexander Nelson, later jailed for 11 years.

Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson recommended disciplinary action be taken against the pursuit commander and the driver of the lead police vehicle, one of two unmarked cars involved in the pursuit.

After a Public Prosecution Service (PPS) decision not to file charges against any police officers, Ms Anderson investigated and recommended the pursuit commander be disciplined for “failing to ensure that action was taken to mitigate the risk” posed by the “close pursuit”. She also recommended the driver of the lead vehicle be disciplined.

The PSNI’s Professional Standards Department disagreed, stating “there was learning for all involved in the pursuit, and gave the officers involved advice designed to improve their future performance”, according to an Ombudsman’s report published today.


The scene in April 2018 of the fatal crash on the Ballysillan Road, Belfast


In a statement, Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton said the service’s thoughts are with the family of Ms Gow and all those “affected by this tragic and traumatic incident”.

"The Police Ombudsman’s recommendations were considered against the Police Conduct Regulations. The officers concerned subsequently received management advice,” ACC Singleton said.

Liam Kelly, chair of the Police Federation, said an independent expert on police pursuits the two police cars involved had been driven in compliance with police training and driving standards and there was no prosecution.

“That is where this should have ended. The officers were attempting to intervene and stop a dangerous offender. The focus of their actions was apprehending the driver of a stolen vehicle."

Mr Kelly added: "“The Ombudsman has a job to do, but a little bit of understanding towards officers involved in dynamic incidents would go some way towards renewing confidence in the system which, right now, fails to deliver expeditious outcomes for individual officers.”

The Police Ombudsman also investigated a complaint about a press release issued by the PSNI that stated incorrectly the police pursuit had ended before the crash.

Ms Anderson concluded that the release was inaccurate and submitted a file recommending the matter be addressed as unsatisfactory performance. The PSNI accepted and implemented this recommendation.

“Having previously apologised to the family in relation to this matter, we fully accept the Ombudsman’s comments today and would reiterate our apology for the further distress this statement caused to the Gow family,” ACC Singleton said.

The ombudsman also made a number of recommendations to police to improve the management of vehicle pursuits. These included that the PSNI should conduct enquiries to establish why a video “downlink” between the police helicopter and the police control room had not worked during the pursuit.

She further recommended that police should conduct joint training between its Air Support and vehicle pursuit units, after her investigation found there to have been a lack of detail in the information being relayed by the helicopter crew to other police officers.

Ms Anderson said: “It is important that there is learning for individual officers following the traumatic circumstances of this police pursuit."

Northern Ireland news