The relationship between PSNI and the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland

Publication: 05/12/13
The relationship between PSNI and OPONI
Inspectorate publishes report on relationship between PSNI and the Police Ombudsman's Office

An independent inspection report published today (5 December 2013) has found the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to be co-operating with the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (OPONI) when required to provide sensitive information for the purpose of investigation.

Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) examined the relationship between the two organisations after concerns were raised that the PSNI was being unhelpful in supporting the OPONI's investigations into historical cases when CJI conducted a previous inspection into the independence of the OPONI in 2011.
"It is in the interests of both the Police Service and the OPONI that a mutually beneficial working relationship is developed and 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," said Brendan McGuigan, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
"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."
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 OPONI 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 inspection found that the recent establishment of a policy evaluation group involving senior officials from the PSNI, the OPONI and the Northern Ireland Policing Board, had the potential to improve the development, categorisation and achievement of policy recommendations as well as evaluating the effectiveness of their implementation by the PSNI.
In the interest of further developing existing arrangements, 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 the Chief Inspector.
"Inspectors recognise how important independence is to the working of the OPONI 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," concluded Mr McGuigan.