Published Date: 03.06.2014
“INVESTIGATION BY NEGOTIATION NOT ACCEPTABLE”
The Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, has served notice on the PSNI that he is to take legal action for its refusal to provide his investigators with information.
Dr Maguire has said that despite repeated requests over past months, the PSNI has on more than 100 occasions either refused to provide information to the Office or has said that it must first explain and justify why the material is wanted. Section 66 of The Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 says that the Chief Constable “shall supply the Ombudsman with such information and documents as the Ombudsman may require for the purposes of, or in connection with, the exercise of any of his functions.”
In September last year the Police Ombudsman also signed an agreement with the Chief Constable covering issues such as how requests will be made, how the police ensure they have gathered all the relevant information asked for and the covering procedures for the secure transfer of material to the Police Ombudsman. However, investigations into the circumstances surrounding more than 60 deaths – both those from the past and more recently – have now been stalled by a PSNI refusal to provide certain material.
“The police have taken the view that they will decide whether or not to provide us with information and in many cases have now decided not to. “We cannot have a situation where any public body, and particularly the police, can decide whether or not it will cooperate with a criminal or misconduct investigation, particularly where legislation requires them to do so,” said Dr Maguire.
Dr Maguire has described the action as unusual and unfortunate, but necessary: “The many thousands of people who make complaints to us every year do so on the basis that we have access to all the police information we need to independently investigate their complaint. That principle is enshrined in law and accepted across the community. Investigation by negotiation is not acceptable,” he said.
The legal action is in the form of a Judicial Review which seeks to compel the PSNI to provide the Police Ombudsman with information he requires to allow him to carry out his functions.