Belfast Telegraph

Calls for police watchdog 'to quit'

There have been calls for the resignation of Northern Ireland's police ombudsman Al Hutchinson after a leaked report raised fresh questions over his office's independence.

Victims campaigners said the new findings heightened their concerns that allegations of police wrongdoing in killings from the Troubles may not have been fully probed.

A review carried out by the Criminal Justice Inspection body is said to have made a series of damning discoveries, exposing divisions inside the ombudsman's office and raising fresh questions over its relationship with the police.

Human rights group, the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) said: "These weaknesses in process and leadership have led to a critical fall in public confidence in the office of the Police Ombudsman. Confidence in policing is significantly predicated on confidence in an independent and robust Ombudsman's office."

It added that "in view of this deteriorating situation" the Ombudsman should resign. The group said: "We do not make this call lightly".

Mr Hutchinson has previously defended his office's independence against criticism.

A spokesman for his office said it would not comment on a report which it believed was still in draft form. It is understood the inspection report is with the Department of Justice but has yet to be published.

The PFC comments came after the Belfast-based investigative journalism group, The Detail, obtained the leaked report.

The PFC said: "If today's claims accurately reflect the CJI's yet-to-be published report, they parallel our own experience of working with the current Police Ombudsman. Similar concerns were also included in the recent report published by the Committee on the Administration of Justice."

The Detail, which published lengthy extracts of the leak on its website, said the draft report made a series of damaging findings, including a "lowering of independence" in the ombudsman's office, which should see its role in investigating historic murders suspended.

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