Published Date: 01.10.2014
The Police Ombudsman's Office has told 25% of its ‘historical’ cases workforce it can no longer afford to fund their posts.
Most of those affected are agency staff employed by the Office and are expected to leave their posts in the coming days.
The reduction in workforce follows confirmation from the Department of Justice that the Office’s budget for the year has been reduced.
The Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, has said these latest cuts will mean his Office has taken an overall reduction in cash funding of 8% this year.
He said the area of work which is taking the greatest impact is its investigation of ‘historical ‘matters linked to The Troubles.
Investigations into incidents connected to some of the most high profile events during that period will now have to be delayed.
These include the murder of ten workmen near Kingsmills in 1976 and what has become known as the ‘Glennane’ series of more than 70 murders in counties Armagh and Tyrone in the ‘Seventies.
These investigations had been due to begin within the next few months but have now been postponed.
Dr Maguire said managing the impact of the cuts has involved making some very difficult decisions:
“The reduction in budget has undermined our ability to deal with the past. The number of complaints we have received about ‘historical’ matters has doubled since 2012: we now have almost 300 cases. I had hoped that the additional funding we had requested could have allowed us to complete these cases within six years but suspect they may now take 12 years or more.”
Dr Maguire said the cuts are also having an impact on the ability of his Office to hold modern policing to account:
“Last year we received more than 3,700 complaints about the conduct of police officers, the highest yearly total in the Office’s history. I cannot continue to do more with less resources and am now in a place where I have to cut front line services.
"This will have a significant impact on the speed with which cases can be progressed and the level of services we can provide,” he said.
The Police Ombudsman said he had previously written to the Secretary of State, the Minister of Justice, Office of First Minister/Deputy First Minister, to the Justice Committee and to the main political party leaders to explain the options open to him if the proposed cuts were to go ahead.
He said his staff are now contacting the families of those bereaved in the cases which are likely to be subject to considerable delay:
“I will also have to write to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to inform them that we will not always be able to meet the commitments given by the UK Government that my Office will conduct investigations into ‘historical’ matters in a timely manner as and when required under the Convention.
“It is ironic that on the release of a Criminal Justice Inspection report, which states that the independence of the Office has been fully restored, our capacity to undertake work has been significantly reduced.
“I am determined to protect the police complaints system and I will not skimp on the quality of investigations, but if the cuts continue as anticipated, they will have a significant impact on the way in which we hold police to account in Northern Ireland.”