New police complaints system to begin in November

Published Date: 14.09.2000

The Police Ombudsman Designate for Northern Ireland, Mrs. Nuala O’Loan, has confirmed that although there are still some legal and administrative issues to be dealt with, she will have the new police complaints system for Northern Ireland operational by November.

Mrs. O’Loan says she will have a team of independent investigators - drawn from across the world – in place in a matter of weeks to help her deal with complaints against police officers.

From November, Northern Ireland’s police will no longer investigate complaints against themselves. All complaints will be handled by the Office of Police Ombudsman: an independent organisation not connected to the police.

Almost 7,000 applications from around the world to join the Office.

Mrs. O’Loan has spent much of this year putting the new system in place. She says the biggest task has been selecting the best possible staff. There have been almost 7,000 applications from throughout the world to join the Office of Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland:

“There is a lot of international attention on the Office and it has attracted a high level of interest. An enormous amount of work that has been involved in processing those applications. We have conducted hundreds of tests and interviews to ensure that we get the right people for the job.

“All that effort has been essential. I have been charged with providing a police complaints system which will be impartial, independent, efficient and effective. We are determined to provide the people and the police of Northern Ireland with the calibre of investigators and other staff that the job requires.”

Among the Police Ombudsman’s team of investigators will be a senior police complaints officer from South Africa, a Detective Chief Inspector from Hong Kong police and both a Scene of Crimes Officer and a senior investigator from New South Wales. The Investigation unit will also include personnel with experience in fraud investigation.

Investigators will have the same powers as police officers to conduct their investigations.

Each of the investigators will have the same powers as a police officer: for example they can obtain search warrants, secure evidence and have the powers of arrest and detention when carrying out an investigation.

The Ombudsman’s Office will employ more that one hundred people. As well as the investigation unit Mrs 0’Loan has also brought together a specialised team to process complaints, a team of researchers and policy analysists to help identify trends and important police issues which arise and a legal team which can prepare cases for the Director of Public Prosecutions and advise generally.

“The Ombudsman’s staff are all very experienced in their own field. It is vitally important, however, that they operate to the highest possible standards and they will be given extensive training and induction,” said Mrs. O’Loan.

The Police Ombudsman has also installed a state-of-the-art computer system which will allow complaints to be monitored in a way which has not been possible until now:

“We will gather and analyse information in a way never done before in the United Kingdom. We will find out whether particular police officers, areas, equipment or procedures give rise to an abnormal level of complaints. We will use that information in research and we will contribute to the development of the best possible police service for all the people.”

An exceptional moment in the history of Northern Ireland.

Mrs. O’Loan said November will mark the beginning of a new era in policing: “This is an exceptional moment in the history of Northern Ireland. My Office will do all it can to ensure public and police confidence in the new system of police complaints. We have an opportunity to contribute to the development of the best possible policing service in Northern Ireland. We are looking forward to providing the first independent investigation of police complaints in the United Kingdom.”

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