Belfast Telegraph

Ombudsman vows police independence

Northern Ireland's new police ombudsman has pledged operational independence in a bid restore community backing.

Dr Michael Maguire said: "The police complaints system must be wholly independent if it is to have the confidence of the public and the police."

The ex-chief inspector of the Criminal Justice Inspection has replaced Al Hutchinson who stood down last January following heavy criticism of the performance of his office in separate investigations linked to failed and controversial RUC inquires into the Claudy (July 1972), Loughinisland (June 1994) and McGurk's bar (December 1971) atrocities.

There were claims the office had become divided and dysfunctional and that its independence had been compromised. Chief executive Sam Pollock quit because of his dissatisfaction.

But Dr Maguire made clear his plans to ensure the handling of complaints about the conduct of police officers would be carried out in a totally independent manner and to the highest of standards.

He said: "The police complaints system must be wholly independent if it is to have the confidence of the public and the police.

"While we will listen to the views of others on improvements to the service we provide to the community, no-one should be in any doubt that the decisions and conclusions reached in individual complaints will be a matter for my office and my office alone."

Dr Maguire added: "The main problems identified by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate related to the 'historical' investigations alone and were largely failures in processes and systems. For most of the last year the staff have been putting in place new policies and procedures.

"Good progress has been made and an important priority will be to commence once again investigations into 'historical' cases and to ensure that the quality of those investigations is as good as it can be.

"We will also look at how cases are prioritised and the ways in which the office engages with the police, families and their representatives."

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