Belfast Telegraph

No serious wrongdoing over supply contracts investigation: PSNI chief

Northern Ireland's police chief has said policies may not have been fully followed, but no serious wrongdoing was committed during a police inquiry which is now the subject of a Police Ombudsman probe.

George Hamilton and other senior Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) staff are being investigated over allegations of misconduct in a public office, relating to how they handled a 2014 investigation into how supply contracts for police vehicles were awarded by the force.

Last week, Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland Dr Michael Maguire revealed he was investigating claims that the 2014 probe had not been appropriately handled. It is understood that some of the allegations relate to claims police documents were altered during the original inquiry.

Mr Hamilton and other officers under Ombudsman investigation strongly deny the allegations.

Addressing MPs at Westminster on the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee in a meeting about the PSNI's work, Mr Hamilton said: "As always with any major complex investigation, if you go reviewing it and investigating it, I'm quite sure there may be minor issues around the margins that we could have done differently or done better, but it's not going to be misconduct.

"It's certainly not going to be criminal activity, it may well be some compliance with a policy or documents not signed, or something of that nature."

The PSNI chief constable added that he had been accused of re-writing some documents and said that he denies this and said those documents were still sitting in his safe.

Mr Hamilton said that although he and his colleagues are confident they will be cleared by the Ombudsman's investigation, they worry public confidence in policing could be undermined until then.

He said he is concerned the probe could take as long as 18 months and that, if cleared, the outcome would not receive as much publicity as the present allegations.

"The problem that we have and that we feel in this is that the final outcome, which could be 18 months away, could end up as two lines on a website from the Police Ombudsman saying that these complaints are not substantiated or that they're not proven," he said.

"In the meantime, we have all this public commentary about the chief constable who is alleged to have perverted the course of justice.

"That's not good for my reputation frankly, that's not good for confidence in policing generally."

The Ombudsman's Office has said the probe is being treated as a "critical incident", but has not called on any of the men to step aside while inquiries are ongoing.

The investigation is expected to continue well into 2018.

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