Northern Ireland

PSNI 'co-operating' with ombudsman, says report

Police Ombudsman
Image caption The report said the PSNI and ombudsman's office were co-operating over sensitive information

The Police Service of Northern Ireland is "co-operating" with the police ombudsman over sensitive information, an inspection report has said.

Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) examined the relationship between the two organisations.

There were concerns the PSNI was being unhelpful in supporting the ombudsman's investigations into historical cases.

The report said continuous commitment from both parties was necessary to build trust.

Brendan McGuigan, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland, said it was in the interests of both the police service and the ombudsman that a "mutually beneficial working relationship is developed".

"Inspectors welcome the establishment of a memorandum of understanding between the organisations, regarding the sharing of sensitive information which occurred after fieldwork for this inspection was completed," he said.

"This is a beneficial development but it will require continuous commitment from both parties to build trust, ensure the memorandum of understanding satisfies the obligations of both organisations and delivers a productive and professional working relationship."

'Greater assurance'

Mr McGuigan said inspectors found that well-defined and suitably monitored processes were in place regarding the engagement between the PSNI and the police ombudsman's Office.

Revised structures now operating within the ombudsman's office strengthened its ability to handle and store sensitive material correctly and provided greater assurance to the PSNI around how sensitive material was being handled.

The CJI's report has identified six areas where further improvement could be made.

"The legitimacy of the police to uphold and enforce the law is strengthened when the public are confident that their complaints about unlawful or unacceptable police behaviour, will be fully investigated by an independent, civilian oversight body," said Mr McGuigan.

"Inspectors recognise how important independence is to the working of the ombudsman's office to ensure the proper investigation of complaints against the police and the making of recommendations free from undue influence.

"However, it remains incumbent on the leadership of both organisations to ensure that they fully discharge their statutory responsibilities to each other whilst retaining the operational independence necessary to maintain public confidence in their activities."