Northern Ireland to lead the way in police complaints information

Published Date: 15.01.2004

For the first time ever in Northern Ireland, detailed and localised information about police complaints will be made readily available to the police and the public through a new initiative by the Police Ombudsman's Office.

The new initiative, the first of its kind in the UK, will mean that the public in Northern Ireland will now have more such information than is made readily available in Great Britain or the Irish Republic.

Until the establishment of the Police Ombudsman's Office, comparatively little information was routinely made available about the nature of the complaints made against the police and how they were resolved.

In a new level of openness, from today (Thursday) the Police Ombudsman's Office has now made this information available as it relates to the majority of towns and villages across Northern Ireland.

By logging onto the Police Ombudsman website, information which was normally only available for senior police officers will be available for the public and the local District Policing Partnerships.

By 'calling up' a map of Northern Ireland and clicking on a particular region, details are now available of the number of complaints from an area, the community background of those making the complaints and the main issues being complained about.

The site will for the first time make public details from Police Ombudsman investigation reports which have been forwarded to the Secretary of State, the PSNI Chief Constable and to the Policing Board. Many of these reports cover (non complaint) investigations into the discharge of police weapons in various situations, including public disturbances.

The site also contains anonymous examples of the many different types of complaints received by the Police Ombudsman's Office and how they were dealt with.

The Police Ombudsman, Mrs Nuala O'Loan, has said this new initiative has involved a lot of hard work by her Public Information team supported by the Belfast based firm Biznet Solutions:

" I think it would be fair to say that in the past the information routinely made available about complaints against the police was very limited. It was usually only confined to statistical data and tended to be contained in summary form in corporate documents. That also still seems to be the case in other jurisdictions.

"In talking to police officers and to the public I realised that I cannot expect people to have a good understanding of our work unless I make available more information – including actual accounts of how complaints have been dealt with - and make that information available in a format which is readily understood.

"I want to try and ensure that people's knowledge of my Office and the issues around our work are based on fact and not misunderstanding or rumour.

"I also want police officers to see that our work underpins good policing and that where complaints against them are ill founded or have no substance we will say so publicly," she said.

The Managing Partner of Biznet Solutions, Adrian Bradley, said the Police Ombudsman's Office was determined to make as much detailed information available as possible to the public.

"It was part of our task to help them present that material in a way which is as easily accessible as possible. We have produced a website which people can easily access at various levels and should be of interest to both members of the public and to those with a detailed interest in this topic."


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