CJI praises work of Police Ombudsman Office to achieve inspection recommendations

The Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland has been praised by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) for the work it has undertaken since it was initially inspected in 2005.

A follow-up review of the agency found the Office of the Police Ombudsman (OPONI) had implemented the majority of the 13 major and 14 minor recommendations made by CJI in its inspection report.
“Recommendations were allocated to the appropriate Directors within the OPONI and Inspectors were provided with detailed information on the amount of progress made before the follow-up inspection commenced,” said Kit Chivers, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
“Inspectors found communication channels within the OPONI have been enhanced and regular updates are now provided for staff by the Chief Executive of the organisation. As a result, staff felt more informed.
“An independent community consultative group involving representatives of the Northern Ireland Tenant’s Action Project was established to secure a community and stakeholder perspective on the work on the Office. This group has assisted the OPONI in looking at ways of improving complainant co-operation with the Office,” said Mr Chivers.
An electronic system for exchanging information between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Office of the Police Ombudsman was developed, and as a result, documents are now provided in a more efficient and timely manner.
The quality of letters issued to complainants when an investigation has been ‘closed’ by the OPONI has also been improved. Letters now contain a summary of the actions taken by the Office during its investigation and efforts are continuing to ensure all cases are dealt with in a consistent manner.
Inspectors were however disappointed to learn that a recommendation to implement targeted presentations for Detective officers in police districts had not been achieved.
“While this particular recommendation has not been progressed, despite discussions taking place with the PSNI, CJI was reassured to find that other outreach work which the Office was progressing with the Police Service, ensured coverage of CID officers had increased. This has been achieved by delivering presentations to officers participating in Detective training programmes.
“Working relations with the Policing Board have not improved as much as Inspectors would have hoped, and this needs to remain on the agenda both for the new Police Ombudsman and for the Board,” added the Chief Inspector.
In conclusion, Mr Chivers said Inspectors found the OPONI had shown a good commitment throughout all levels of the organisation to achieving the recommendations set down in the Inspectorate’s original report.
“I would repeat CJI’s original finding that the Office of the Police Ombudsman is an effective and efficient organisation which is keen to improve further. We are satisfied that there is enough impetus within the organisation to fully carry through any outstanding recommendations without any further inspection review,” he concluded.