Belfast Telegraph

Call for police ombudsman to resign

There are growing calls for the resignation of Northern Ireland's police ombudsman Al Hutchinson and one of his top investigators.

The watchdog is a key part of the region's new-look policing structures, but it is facing a growing crisis after a leaked report questioned its independence.

The review by the Criminal Justice Inspection (CJI) is the latest in a barrage of criticism that has seen the office accused of failing to properly investigate police wrongdoing in cases linked to the Troubles.

Three human rights groups, which lobby for the victims of violence, have said the leak supports their concerns over the ombudsman, including their fear that reports into historic cases have been altered, removing criticism of the police.

The London-based British-Irish Rights Watch (BIRW) group is the latest to call for the resignation of the organisation's figureheads, former Canadian police commander Al Hutchinson and his former Scotland Yard senior director of investigations Jim Coupland - though their office has previously denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Coupland went on long-term sick leave in June 2010 and in July this year the Ombudsman commissioned an independent investigation linked to the senior director of investigations, but related to issues separate from those raised by the CJI.

BIRW director Jane Winter said: "The findings ascribed to the CJI report closely echo our own concerns about the leadership of PONI (Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland).

"BIRW has long supported the need for independent scrutiny of alleged police misconduct."

But she added: "We believe that the CJI are correct in coming to the shocking conclusion that PONI reports were re-written or altered to exclude criticism of the police without explanation."

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

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