Criminal Justice Inspection reports on Police Ombudsman

An inspection by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate into the Office of the Police Ombudsman has described it as an efficient, effective and tightly managed organisation. 

The Chief Inspector, Kit Chivers, describes his 53-page report* as ‘largely positive’.  However he also makes 13 recommendations and a number of other suggestions for improvement.

With regard to value for money he says that the task of police complaints in Northern Ireland is unique, and comparisons with other police complaints systems are liable to be misleading.  He does not accept that a budget of around £8 million is excessively expensive.  He says:

"Devoting around one percent of the cost of policing to providing a genuinely independent police complaints service cannot be regarded as disproportionate".

 The Chief Inspector makes clear that his report respects the independence of the Police Ombudsman, and therefore avoids commenting on the handling of individual cases.

He says, however, that both the Police Ombudsman and the Police Service of Northern Ireland need to take due care of police officers against whom complaints have been made.  There are valid reasons why complaints sometimes take a long time to resolve, but both agencies should, he says, "keep these long-running cases under close review and seek to minimise the human cost of the investigation process, even if the process itself is a correct one". 
* Inspection of the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, ISBN 1-905283-07-5.  Copies are available from 11:00 today from Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland, 14 Great Victoria Street, Belfast BT2 7BA or online at Enquiries to Dan Mulholland, 028 9025 8014
 Mr Chivers says that the Office has worked hard to build confidence among the public and the police: 

“There is an increasing recognition among the police that the Office is fair and independent and does a useful job by exonerating officers who have been unfairly complained against as well as identifying those guilty of misconduct”, he says.

But he urges that it does more to confirm its reputation with those police officers who work in Criminal Investigation Department.  He recommends that the Police Ombudsman should aim to give more presentations to CID officers, and says PSNI Senior Officers have a responsibility to encourage their officers to attend. 
The Chief Inspector says that he has some concerns about relations between the Police Ombudsman’s Office and other relevant agencies. He recognizes that all concerned share the responsibility for improving matters. He recommends that the Police Ombudsman should "engage afresh with all the interested parties" to establish a better understanding about her role, but says: 

“All the bodies concerned have a duty to make their best efforts to engage."

Summing up, Kit Chivers says: 

"The work of the Police Ombudsman remains immensely important. Its work is difficult and sensitive because of the subject matter it deals with. The challenge now is to move beyond the old arguments and to view the Office objectively as a vital, impartial service to policing and to the community."