Ford orders review on Police Ombudsman's office claims

Sam Pollock has quit his role over 'meddling' from senior civil servants

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Justice Minister David Ford will set up an independent review into the allegations made by the chief executive of the Police Ombudsman's office.

Sam Pollock resigned from his £90,000 a year job after claiming the office's independence has been undermined by meddling from senior civil servants.

Mr Ford said he would announce the person tasked with the review "in the coming days".

The ombudsman's office has rejected the claims of interference.

Speaking to the BBC on Friday evening, Mr Ford said he would be meeting with "a senior official" early next week to set up the investigation.

He said he personally had seen no evidence that the allegations were true, but refused to comment further.

"The people who I have working for me have given me the clear impression that they are committed to making devolution work."

"I have had no reason up to now to doubt (the ombudsman's) independence," he added.

Ulster Unionist David McNarry and Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey said the allegations raised "serious" issues.

David McNarry said it was an "extraordinary and shocking state of affairs".

"This has left a large question mark over the ombudsman's office and a number of senior officials at the Department of Justice," he said.

"It is a very serious matter and David Ford needs to answer whether his officials are the reason for Mr Pollock's departure.

"We need to find out if he has been pushed to far, whether his allegations are founded, can the matter be resolved and what will happen with his replacement."

The ombudsman, Al Hutchinson, has strongly rejected claims the office's independence had been undermined.

Mr Hutchinson said the independence of the ombudsman was "guaranteed by law" and he could confirm that "independence is both real and practical, as demonstrated by our reports".

"If it were otherwise, I would say so," he added.

Alex Maskey said a rigorous investigation was needed: "We need to get to the bottom of this.".

"As I understand Mr Pollock's allegations go back to before the Department of Justice was established so if there has been any notion of interference or if there is any undermining of the ombudsman's independence it will be totally unacceptable.

Disastrous

"One of the reasons our party and the people we represent were able to endorse and support policing was that there was an independent body like the ombudsman.

"This independence was key to the architecture of our future and the need for policing and justice to keep across our communities

"Any shaking of that confidence could be disastrous".

In a statement the Department of Justice said that proper arrangements were in place to meet the accountability arrangements for public money.

It said if there was evidence to suggest any official had behaved improperly that would be looked into fully, but no such evidence had been presented.

Mr Pollock alleges he was subjected to malicious personal attacks after raising his concerns.

He has been chief executive since the office opened ten-and-a-half years ago.

Prior to that he had a long and distinguished career within the criminal justice system, stretching back more than 40 years. That service was rewarded with an OBE in 2005.

He will leave his post at the end of August.

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