Published Date: 05.09.2011
The Police Ombudsman has said that he welcomes the findings of the Criminal Justice Inspectorate Report, which has described his Office's investigations of current policing as 'professional'.
Al Hutchinson said: "I have now moved to address those areas of concern identified by the Inspectorate in relation to the 'historical' work undertaken by my Office.
"I also particularly welcome the fact that the report places a spotlight on the larger issue of how society should deal with wider unresolved legacy issues arising from "the Troubles"."
The Police Ombudsman's comments are in response to the findings of a Criminal Justice Inspectorate report into the workings of his Office.
Mr Hutchinson said he welcomes the positive aspects of the report and will not shirk away from the concerns which have been identified.
"I am glad that the report has not found any significant areas of concern with our investigations of current complaints, which are the vast bulk of what we do. Having said that, I would also be the first to admit that we are not perfect. The report reflects that we deal with everyday complaints in a professional and appropriate way. That is a testament to the commitment of the staff of my Office.
"I also welcome the fact that the report has endorsed our Historic Directorate Strategic Plan on how we move forward with the investigation of issues from the period during 'The Troubles', as well as endorsing our need for more resources in this area.
"The report has identified issues of concern about the process we use for our 'historical' cases and how we report on those investigations. I have begun to address those concerns head on."
Mr Hutchinson added that he and his senior staff had been briefed on the major findings of the report several weeks ago and since then had begun to address those issues.
"My staff, many of whom have been with the Office since it opened, are fiercely independent of mind. Some of them have expressed concerns that our processes are still not as good as they could be. We are now working to improve on these processes," he said.
Among the matters being reviewed, Mr Hutchinson said his team have now started to look again at the procedures for gathering and protecting sensitive information provided by the police and other agencies, so that we can be assured that investigators get all the information they need:
"I have no evidence nor has the Inspectorate found any evidence that we are not getting all the information we ask for. Nevertheless, we will check our mechanisms and if there is any way to improve things, we will do so."
Mr Hutchinson said his team will also look at the ways it critically reviews its historic investigations and reports on them publicly:
"I have acknowledged that we have had a few problems in this regard in the past and since then we have formed an Independent Advisory Group which includes people from different parts of the community who regularly give us their views on such issues.
"Carrying out independent, impartial evidence-based investigation of events several decades ago is difficult. Searching for people, memories and documents which may no longer exist can be frustrating for our investigators and even more so for the families of some victims when we cannot provide them with the facts they so desperately need."
Mr Hutchinson said he has agreed with the Inspectorate that he will not commence any new historical investigations until his Office receives additional funding, which is expected before the end of the year. However, he notes that reporting on the seven historic cases that have already been investigated, but not reported on, will re-commence once he is confident that there is a robust and sustainable critical review and quality assured process in place.
Mr Hutchinson added: "We will use these next few months to review and refine our processes. I will update the CJI at the end of the year on our progress and I have invited the Chief Inspector to conduct a further review at a time of his choosing."