Belfast Telegraph

Police Ombudsman set to quit post

Northern Ireland's crisis-hit Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson has told politicians he will leave the post next year.

But he faced calls to quit immediately after a series of damning reports said he had lost the trust of senior colleagues and that his watchdog organisation was divided and dysfunctional.

Mr Hutchinson told the Assembly's Justice Committee he wanted to stay on until next June to implement reforms, but one representative accused the former Canadian Mountie of having been "asleep at the wheel" during his four year tenure.

The ombudsman faced members of the Stormont Assembly's Justice Committee who challenged him on the finding of reports that had called his leadership into question.

He said his proposed timescale, which would see him leave earlier than his planned retirement date of December 2012, would also allow time for a replacement to be recruited.

Mr Hutchinson's move comes after the hard-hitting review by the Criminal Justice Inspection (CJI) group said ombudsman reports into some of the most controversial murders of the Troubles had seen criticism of the police removed.

But Mr Hutchinson, who commissioned the CJI report, claimed other unnamed groups had sought to attack him and the work of his office.

"After a decade of commitment to improvement of policing in Northern Ireland, I will not let those who want to undermine progress for their own narrow agendas to succeed in destroying this office or indeed in shaping its future to their own ends," he said. "I have therefore advised the Minister of Justice David Ford that my last day of work will be on June 1 2012."

Victims campaigners had demanded the swift resignation of the former Canadian police commander. Sinn Fein also said anything short of an immediate departure would jeopardise efforts to salvage the image of his office.

Mr Hutchinson told the committee he had come in for personal attack. "Despite this, I want to ensure you our office is made up of people who are dedicated, professional, independent and full of integrity."


From Belfast Telegraph