Belfast Telegraph

Chief of police watchdog resigns

The chief executive of the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman's Office has resigned after claiming the independence of the watchdog has been compromised.

Sam Pollock has alleged the organisation's work has been unduly interfered with by civil servants and its investigators are not detached enough from the police.

He has told Ombudsman Al Hutchinson he is no longer prepared to work for the independent body, set up to examine allegations of police misconduct.

It was established as part of peace process reforms to increase community confidence in the newly formed Police Service of Northern Ireland.

But Mr Hutchinson has denied the office's independence has been undermined. "The independence of the Police Ombudsman is guaranteed by law and I can confirm that independence is both real and practical, as demonstrated by our reports. If it was otherwise I would say so."

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said there was no evidence of civil service interference with the Ombudsman's Office. "The department has always respected the independence of the Ombudsman's office in line with its legislative remit," he said.

"The department is responsible for ensuring that proper governance arrangements are in place to meet the accountability arrangements for public money. Mechanisms are in place to provide for this as with other Arms Length Bodies.

"If there is evidence to suggest any official has behaved improperly that would be looked into fully, but no such evidence has been presented."

A police spokeswoman said: "The PSNI has a constructive relationship with the Police Ombudsman's Office and values its role and independence. However, it would be inappropriate to comment further as this is a matter for PONI or Mr Pollock to discuss and comment on."

Mr Pollock has worked for the Police Ombudsman's Office for 10 years, having previously spent two decades in the probation and prison services in Northern Ireland as well as spells in the Welsh probation service and as a residential care inspector in Scotland.

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