How much does it cost to bring a complaint to the Police Ombudsman?
Nothing. The service is free.
What do I do if I want to complain about an incident, but I cannot identify the officer in question or there were several officers involved?
Contact us and we will advise you. You do not always need to know who the police officer was. We can usually find out who was in a particular place at a particular time.
Will you give my name and personal details to the police or make them public?
We will not make public the identity of any person we deal with - not you, the police, witnesses or anyone else. We will tell the police officer involved who you are, and if your complaint leads to criminal proceedings we will have to reveal information to the court. You may be called as a witness.
How long does it take to investigate a complaint?
We thoroughly investigate each case and the length of time it takes will depend on how complicated the case is. We may have to get information from other people such as doctors and solicitors, so it may take a little time.
What happens if the Police Ombudsman investigates my complaint and decides that he needs to take action?
The Police Ombudsman will recommend the appropriate criminal or disciplinary action.
What happens if the Police Ombudsman investigates my complaint and finds that the police officer acted properly?
The Police Ombudsman will explain to you why this has happened.
Do you have police officers on your staff?
None of the staff of the Police Ombudsman's Office are members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Most of the people who work for the Police Ombudsman's Office are employees of this Office. We have several police officers seconded from police services other than PSNI.
Do you only investigate the Police Service of Northern Ireland?
No. We will also deal with complaints relating to Larne Harbour Police, Belfast Harbour Police, Belfast International Airport Police and the Ministry of Defence Police. We do not investigate complaints against the Army.
What happens if I make a complaint to the police directly?
All complaints about police misconduct are handled by the Police Ombudsman's Office. If you make your complaint to the police, or to your solicitor or local councillor, for example, they must be passed to us if they are to be dealt with.
Are all complaints automatically investigated?
No. Some complaints received will be outside our remit and cannot be dealt with by our office. Others will be closed because for example they are vexatious or ill founded and some will be referred for informal resolution. In some instances we may need more information before a decision can be made to investigate.
What if I am unhappy with the outcome of my complaint?
Our investigators make decisions based on the evidence they have and in accordance with the relevant legislation.
We cannot change the decisions we make about your complaint and we do not undertake reviews or appeals of the outcomes of our investigations, unless new information or evidence which may have a material effect on the decision becomes available.
Any complaint received in relation to the outcome of an investigation is referred to the Customer Complaints Manager for review. If the Manager believes that new information or evidence has been provided which would make a material difference, the matter will be referred to the Director of Current Investigations who will make the decision about the re-opening of an investigation.
If you are unhappy with the outcome of an investigation, you can apply to the court for a judicial review of our decision. You may wish to seek independent legal advice on the judicial review process.
If you have expressed your dissatisfaction with the outcome of an investigation and we have issued you with a final response on the matter, we will consider the complaint to be closed and also close our correspondence.
How can I complain about the Police Ombudsman?
The Police Ombudsman is independent and her decisions are final.
If you wish to make a complaint about the service you have received from the Police Ombudsman's Office, excluding the outcome of your complaint, you should write to:
Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland
New Cathedral Buildings
11 Church Street
We will look into your complaint and send you a written reply.
If you believe our response does not properly address your concerns, the letter you receive will explain how you can appeal the decision.
Further information is available in our Customer Complaint Policy.