Givan will not resign chairmanship over libel case

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The DUP's Paul Givan told members of the Justice Committee that he would not resign as its chairman, on 18 April 2013.

It followed Mr Givan's agreement to pay substantial libel damages and issue an apology to the former Police Ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan.

Patsy McGlone of the SDLP asked Mr Givan to reflect on the matter and make a statement to the Assembly.

"It is a serious situation to be in and a serious admission which affects your position and standing as chair of the committee," he said.

Mr Givan accused the SDLP of wanting "a public flogging" over the matter.

Mr McGlone commented that "we can play clever buggers all evening", and Mr Givan said he had used "inappropriate language".

"Under no circumstances, and let me be abundantly clear, under no circumstances, will I be resigning," he said.

Mr Givan agreed to provide committee members with a transcript of the television interview that had been the subject of the libel case, and a copy of the statement that had been read into the court.

Earlier in the meeting, the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice briefed MLAs on his recommendation that the police ombudsman should resume historical investigations.

The investigations were suspended in September 2011 after inspectors said the way the ombudsman's office (OPONI) worked had compromised its independence from the police.

Brendan McGuigan outlined Criminal Justice Northern Ireland's (CJI) 2011 report on OPONI and a newly-published follow-up review designed to determine whether the report's recommendations had been implemented.

Mr McGuigan said that "overall there had been substantial progress" and historical investigations "should recommence as soon as practicable".

"Inspectors believe that the changes made have the potential to deliver quality investigations and reports and to protect the independence of the police ombudsman's office," he said.

Bill Priestley, who led the investigation into OPONI, explained the process of "buffeting" whereby changes had been made to historical investigations after publication due to pressures from "various stakeholders including the police, families, interested parties, NGOs..."

Sinn Fein's Raymond McCartney said he found buffeting "an interesting term for interference".

The committee then heard from the Police Ombudsman, Michael Maguire, who confirmed that the issue of buffeting would "have to be addressed head-on".

Mr Maguire briefed the committee on the return to historical investigations.

He said that people "can expect and should receive the results of a robust and quality investigation undertaken by people who know what they are doing".

The ombudsman explained in depth the changes made to the governance of his office to implement the recommendations made in the CJI report.

"My responsibilities are to produce an independent, objective report. I can commit to the changes that we are talking about but I can't commit that people are going to like the results," he said.

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