Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland jails watchdog retires but can’t yet be replaced

By Staff Reporter

Northern Ireland will have no prisons watchdog from September unless a new Executive is formed.

Prisoner Ombudsman Tom McGonigle is retiring on August 31 from a position he has held since 2013.

A public appointment competition to select a successor was held earlier this year and a number of suitable candidates were identified. But the successful applicant will only be announced following the appointment of a Justice Minister.

The Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI), Mr Brendan McGuigan, will oversee the work of the Prisoner Ombudsman's office until a successor is finally appointed.

Department of Justice Permanent Secretary Nick Perry said: "I wish to place on record the department's gratitude to Tom McGonigle for his dedicated service.

"His professionalism and leadership in office has, without doubt, helped ensure that prisoners and their visitors could have confidence that any concerns they may have had would be independently and thoroughly investigated."

Mr Perry added: "I am grateful to Brendan McGuigan for undertaking oversight of the office until a new ombudsman is appointed.

"Given the synergies between the ombudsman's office and CJINI, in terms of providing independent and impartial oversight of criminal justice bodies, I am confident that this interim arrangement will ensure the integrity of the ombudsman's office until a successor is appointed."

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