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Police apologise to families affected by disclosure failings

Deputy chief constable Mark Hamilton said there had been ‘organisational failure’.

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Deputy chief constable Mark Hamilton unreservedly apologised to families affected by failure to disclose information in Northern Ireland (Michael McHugh/PA)

Deputy chief constable Mark Hamilton unreservedly apologised to families affected by failure to disclose information in Northern Ireland (Michael McHugh/PA)

Deputy chief constable Mark Hamilton unreservedly apologised to families affected by failure to disclose information in Northern Ireland (Michael McHugh/PA)

Police have unreservedly apologised to families affected by their failure to disclose information in Northern Ireland.

Deputy chief constable Mark Hamilton said there had been organisational shortcomings but urgent work had been carried out to address it.

He welcomed the Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI) review of methods used to release material on historic cases to the Police Ombudsman.

He said: “As observed by the CJINI Report, from the outset PSNI recognised the impact of the failure to disclose information to the Ombudsman on both the families and the wider public’s confidence in policing.

“This failure was not due to the actions of any individual but was an organisational and systems failure and I unreservedly apologise again to the families for this.

“As soon as the issue came to police attention, we commissioned urgent work to address it, and over the course of the last year we have worked closely with OPONI and fully co-operated with the Criminal Justice Inspectorate to do so.”

He accepted in full the recommendations for PSNI within the report.

“Both the PSNI and OPONI have, and are committed to working together, to continually improve our systems and processes for disclosure so that we can provide families who have lost loved ones with as much information as possible on their deaths.

“Much of the work on the recommendations from the report is already well progressed and, in some areas, has already been completed.”

As part of this work, PSNI has introduced a standardised search guide to deliver a more “comprehensive and consistent” approach which provides a higher level of assurance for the Ombudsman.

Mr Hamilton added: “We believe this work has significantly reduced the risk of such an error occurring again.

“The Inspectorate are however right when they say that the risk of a further error cannot be fully eradicated and that is why, along with OPONI, we must continue to critically evaluate our systems and processes to limit the potential for any recurrence.

“I am confident that the ongoing work on updating the memorandum of understanding between PSNI and OPONI will provide clarity and enable the effective working relationship as recommended by CJINI and significant progress has been made on this already.”

PA