Senior police officer refutes claims over pursuit of ATM thieves

Police recovered two ATMs after they were removed from a supermarket on Larne Link Road in Ballymena
Police recovered two ATMs after they were removed from a supermarket on Larne Link Road in Ballymena

A senior PSNI office has refuted claims that the police response to ATM thefts in Northern Ireland is being hampered by a policy that means officers cannot break the speed limit in a pursuit.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd hit back at suggestions that a patrol car responding to the theft of an ATM in Ballymena last Friday was only allowed to travel at 50mph along the dual carriageway outside the Tesco store where it was stolen.

The incident – which saw a digger being used to rip two ATMs from the wall of a supermarket on Larne Link Road in the town – was the latest in a string of ATM thefts across NI in recent months.

The thieves managed to avoid capture after abandoning their pick-up vehicle and the stolen cash machines.

A report in the Belfast Telegraph this morning quoted an unnamed officer who claimed that technology installed in police vehicles to monitor the speed they are travelling is slowing response times.

He added: “The fact is that there are speed limits set depending on the vehicle you’re driving and there’s technology fitted in every car, Land Rover and truck we drive, that constantly monitors our speed.

“If we go over that limit it triggers an alert and we have to justify to our bosses why we breached that limit.

“Only if we can show that we were responding to a call or situation where we believed a life was in danger will we not get into trouble.

“I would imagine that the crew following the stolen ATM didn’t reasonably believe any lives were at risk, so it would have meant that they couldn’t drive any faster than the speed limit on whatever road they were on.”

However, in an interview with BBC’s The Nolan Show this morning, ACC Alan Todd said the claims made in the article were “not true”.

He stated that in regards to the response to the ATM theft in Ballymena, a number of police vehicles broke the speed limit.

“That is what the public would expect us to do; they would expect us to make every effort to bring those people before the courts. That was the case on that evening, and will be the case going forward,” ACC Todd continued.

He also said the response had been dealt with “within police procedures”, and no further action will be taken against the officers involved.

Explaining the procedure, ACC Todd said: “It is the responsibility of an individual police officer to take decisions with regards to their own safety and the safety of public when responding to incidents.

“When they feel the need to pursue other vehicles at excess speed, they seek authority to do so through the Command and Control Centre, who decide whether or not to authorise such action.”

When asked how the ATM thieves had been able to evade capture after being pursued by a police vehicle, ACC Todd declined to go into specifics of the operation: “The vehicle in question was not the only part of the police response. To tell you about the detail about the techniques we were using in an attempt to bring the wider gang into custody would only provide information that would be useful to those criminals.”

He also stated that bringing the ATM thieves before the courts is of the “utmost priority” for police.