Drop In complaints against police

Published Date: 21.07.2005

Thursday, 21 July 2005
More than 2,800 people in Northern Ireland made complaints about police officers last year - that is a drop of 91 or 3% on the same period in the previous year.

The statistic is among the information contained in the latest Annual Report published by the Office of the Police Ombudsman.

The Report outlines that complaints about the police were made from both main sections of the community. 47% of complaints were from people who described themselves as from the Protestant community, while 37% were from those who said they were Catholic.

Just under a quarter of all allegations against police were made in the Belfast area, with the Foyle, Lisburn, Ballymena and Craigavon District Command Units accounting for around 5% each.

During the year the PSNI also asked the Office to investigate 72 'serious matters', most of which involved the use of CS Spray (58 cases). These matters also included four separate incidents where people had died.

The types of issues which members of the public complained about have continued to change in recent years. The single biggest category of complaint, allegations that police officers had failed to do their duty, represented 39% of complaints last year - an increase of 12% in the last three years.

Allegations of assault, intimidation or harassment, which used to be the main cause of complaint, represented 37% of complaints last year- a drop of 4% since 2002.

Of the 2,885 complaints the Office received last year, 1,590 were such that formal investigations into the allegations were initiated. In 720 cases, the person making the complaint agreed to try and deal with the matter through the Police Ombudsman's Informal Resolution process. In another 450 cases, the complainant agreed to refer the matter back to the police.

During the year the Police Ombudsman's Office also closed 3,052 cases. In 43% of those cases, following initial inquiries it was felt that no further action was needed. In 21% of the complaints, investigators did not find any evidence to substantiate the allegations. 11% of the complaints were resolved informally and in 10% of the cases the Police Ombudsman judged that there was no basis for the complaint.

The Police Ombudsman's Office forwarded 149 cases to the Director of Public Prosecution during the year - in 142 she recommended that no charges be brought against officers. In seven instances she recommended charges. The Office also forwarded 57 cases to the PSNI Chief Constable recommending that officers face disciplinary action.

During the year the Police Ombudsman, Mrs Nuala O'Loan, also made a series of recommendations for improvement in policing policy or practices related to issues which had arisen during the course of investigations.
These included a recommendation that CS Spray should not be used as a dispersal weapon during street disorder, which has now been addressed by police.

The PSNI also accepted a recommendation that female officers should be present during searches at locations where females are likely to be, unless there is good reason to prevent this.

In addition, the Police Ombudsman recommended that the PSNI should review and adjust as necessary the training given to officers in relation to applying for and executing search warrants. The PSNI have since appointed three additional trainers to ensure this issue is dealt with.

The Police Ombudsman also recommended that the PSNI should urgently review the use of the three shot burst mode on the police issue Heckler and Koch MP5 automatic weapon. This is currently being considered by the police.


Note: The full text of the annual report can be downloaded in PDF format from the Police Ombudsman's website at www.policeombudsman.org

Police Ombudsman Information 0ffice - 028 90 828 828604/ 828746


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