Independent assessment confirms independence of historical cases 'fully restored' within Police Ombudsman's Office
An independent review by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) of processes within the Office of Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (OPONI) for the investigation and publication of reports on historical cases, has found the independence of the Office has been fully restored.
The assessment was carried out 18 months after a CJI follow-up review paved the way for work on historical cases to begin again. CJI had previously recommended in September 2011 that work in this area be suspended and a review conducted after the operational independence of the Office was found to had been lowered.
"When CJI published the findings of its follow-up review in January 2013, I indicated a true assessment as to whether or not full independence had been restored, could only be made after a number of public reports on historical cases had been published," said Brendan McGuigan, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
"As this has happened, Inspectors returned in July to carry out a further independent evaluation of the quality assurance processes," he said.
The Chief Inspector indicated Inspectors had found scrutiny occurring from the point of initial assessment and investigation through to the preparation and publication of investigation reports and public statements. This meant the cases examined had withstood both internal and external challenge.
In the cases examined the provision of sensitive material by the Police Service of Northern Ireland to the OPONI was also found to have worked in accordance with the agreed protocol. More recent difficulties with the provision of such information in other historical cases had since been resolved. Properly controlled communication with all interested parties and structured factual accuracy checks were also found to be beneficial.
In conclusion Mr McGuigan said: "The OPONI has an important role to play in providing independent oversight of policing in Northern Ireland, which in turn has an impact on public confidence.
"On the basis of the evidence reviewed by the independent inspection team, the Inspectorate is satisfied the systems and process in place can withstand buffeting and challenge and the independence of the OPONI had been restored," he said.