Police Ombudsman statement on powers

Published Date: 09.01.2001

Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland Mrs Nuala O’Loan has released the following statement regarding her powers and how they are being used since the opening of her office in November 2000.

“Much has been written about the powers of the Police Ombudsman. The Police Ombudsman has probably the most extensive independent powers of investigation in the world”, said Mrs O’Loan. This is what the office of the Police Ombudsman has been doing.

  • Receiving all complaints against the police – 701 complaints received from all sides of the community in eight weeks

    • More than half the complaints are about oppressive behaviour with 274 allegations of assault by police officers

    • More than 160 allegations concern failures of duty in areas such as detention of suspects and searching of premises.

    • These complaints cover the whole range of police interaction with the people they serve

  • Sending investigators out – interviewed witnesses all over the province as well as complainants, police officers etc

  • Gathering evidence – we have taken as evidence cars, batons, firearms, notebooks, police logs and many other things

  • Getting forensic analysis of evidence

  • Reconstructing situations to determine what happened

  • Bringing in experts from wherever necessary – eg we reconstructed an accident and were able to show conclusively what had happened.

  • Responding whenever a gun is used (rare, but it does happen) to ensure that there is no misconduct

  • Conducting a review of the situation of defence solicitors here, examining all allegations available and taking from the RUC the one case which was currently under investigation. Meeting with individual defence lawyers and shortly to meet with the Criminal Law Committee of the Law Society.

  • Responding on an emergency basis 24 hours a day 365 days a year to complaints

The Police Ombudsman can also:

  • Respond on any occasion when plastic bullets are used

  • Arrest police officers, search premises etc

  • Recommend prosecution or disciplinary action against police officers.

“Investigation of complaints against police officers is independent and impartial and there have already been cases where we have established that there is no truth to the allegation. It is important that we are able to state categorically where that is the case that the officer has done nothing wrong. Where wrongdoing has occurred we will act,” said Mrs O’Loan.

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