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We must decide exact role for Ombudsman

I have been following recent events surrounding the Police Ombudsman's office (News, August 16).

A number of recent reports - including a leak from the Criminal Justice Inspectorate (CJI) - point to a number of problems with the organisation.

While we need to await the publication of the CJI report next month, it does appear to suggest that independence of the Ombudsman's office has been compromised in terms of dealings with senior NIO officials.

It is essential that the Ombudsman's office is seen to be free of political influence.

However, I think that there is a broader problem here which is largely not of the Ombudsman's making and which relates to a broader failure of politicians and Northern Irish society generally to agree on how we deal with the past.

Nearly four years ago, I wrote an article in which I argued that, in the absence of any consensus, the Ombudsman's office had been pushed into assuming the role of a surrogate 'truth recovery' vehicle.

I suggested it had neither the resources nor the personnel to perform such a function satisfactorily.

We need to decide if we want the Ombudsman's office to deal with 'truth recovery' or complaints against the PSNI. It cannot do both.

The Ombudsman's office remit is muddled and not in a position to deliver either aspect satisfactorily.

DR GRAHAM ELLISON

Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Queen's University, Belfast

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