Belfast Telegraph

Sir Hugh Orde pushes for NI's police ombudsman system to be replicated across UK in wake of 'plebgate'

The president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) has called for a shake-up of the way forces are regulated in the wake of the "plebgate" row.

Sir Hugh Orde, who was chief constable of the PSNI in Northern Ireland, said the ombudsman system in place here should be considered throughout the UK.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said Inspector Ken MacKaill, Detective Sergeant Stuart Hinton and Sergeant Chris Jones should have faced misconduct hearings for lying about what Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell said in a private meeting about the row at the gates of Downing Street last year.

West Mercia Police conducted an internal investigation into claims that the three officers were trying to discredit Mr Mitchell, who eventually resigned as chief whip as a result of the dispute, but concluded there was no case to answer for misconduct or gross misconduct.

Sir Hugh called for a change in the way complaints against officers are handled.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I was a chief constable and I benefited from a completely independent investigation organisation, the police ombudsman, who would have taken that on.

"The great strength of my system was it was independent of the police and I've always been a big advocate of that."

He said Home Secretary Theresa May was right to say the row raised issues about trust in the police.

"The Home Secretary is right, these sorts of events go to the heart of confidence in policing," he said.

He added that confidence in policing had remained "remarkably stable" over the last five to 10 years.

But, calling for a new way of investigating complaints, he said: "I think the current decision by the Home Secretary to take money from the service to support the IPCC, maybe that would be better spent looking at the bigger picture and do we need now a police ombudsman system in the rest of the United Kingdom?

"I think it is critical. I said when I took over the Police Service of Northern Ireland the key success factors for me were I had a completely independent policing board to hold me to account, we now have police and crime commissioners in this country who hold police to account.

"I had a police ombudsman who would investigate every complaint from the public independently of me. I had absolute confidence in that system, as did the public.

"I think it's a very good model. It is, of course, a very expensive model so we have to ask some hard questions about how important this is. I see it as very important."

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