The Investigation Process
When we have established that a matter should be investigated, we will set about gathering and reviewing all the available material about the incident in question. Some of that will be information which is publicly available, such as transcripts from official court or other legal hearings or from other ‘open’ sources. The Police Ombudsman’s Office has access to all material held by the police and, as a first step, we will gather the documentation held within the relevant RUC files. We will also seek to gather any new material which has come to light in recent years.
Having looked at all this material, we will establish if there is enough information to provide answers to the questions which have been raised. If so, we will provide those answers. If not, the matter will be subject to further investigation.
The Historical Investigations Directorate is committed to providing as much information as we can about when and how we will deal with issues.
After consulting with the public and the police, we have developed a policy to help achieve a fair and equitable approach in deciding the order in which we carry out our investigations.
In the first instance we consider whether the alleged criminality in the case passed to us represents an ongoing and immediate threat to life or threat of serious injury or serious damage to property.
Having satisfied ourselves that such threats do not exist, we look again at the nature of the alleged police behaviour and establish if there is a direct causal link between police action and the death (such as the firing of a police weapon).
We consider in detail the gravity of the alleged offence. This includes establishing if the alleged conduct of the police represents potential criminal behaviour or misconduct. Alleged murder or criminal conspiracy would demand more immediate consideration than alleged police misconduct, for example.
We also consider whether there are related criminal or inquest proceedings.
Once these issues have been considered we may take into account other factors – for example, has there been a proven miscarriage of justice, as well as the age or infirmity of partners or immediate relatives of the deceased.