Belfast Telegraph

Ombudsman Al Hutchinson to leave post in June 2012

By Liam Clarke

Northern Ireland's under-fire Police Ombudsman has told the Stormont justice committee that he will step down on June 1st next year.

Al Hutchinson said he intends to use the next nine months implementing the recommendations of a damning report which said he had lost the trust of senior colleagues.

The withering probe by Dr Michael Maguire, head of the Criminal Justice Inspectorate, added that the Ombudsman's office was divided and dysfunctional under his leadership.

In answer to questions from committee members, Dr Maguire made it clear that the problems in the office sprang from three historic inquiries into Troubles-era terrorist attacks at Claudy, Loughinisland and McGurk's bar which, between them, claimed 30 lives.

Dr Maguire told MLAs that if he had a current complaint against the police, he would not hesitate to bring it to the Ombudsman's Office for investigation.

Mr Hutchinson quoted this comment in his own testimony. He appeared calm and unruffled under fire from Sinn Fein representatives who demanded that he go sooner.

"I am very sad to hear you are staying till next May," Jennifer McCann told him.

Her party colleague Raymond McCartney told Mr Hutchinson that "long goodbyes don't work".

He also asked him: "Were you asleep at the wheel or was there someone else driving?"

Mr Hutchinson replied: "I was driving, I will fix it. I will do it by next June."

Even a unionist, the UUP's Basil McCrea, asked him why he was staying nine months after "a litany of disaster".

Mr Hutchinson defended the lengthy timescale to his resignation - which brings forward his planned retirement date of December 2012 - on the grounds it would allow time for a replacement to be recruited.

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