Click the links below for answers to commonly asked questions about the work of the Office.
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.
How can I complain about the Police Ombudsman?
The Police Ombudsman is independent and his decisions are final. The Police Ombudsman will, however, consider complaints about maladministration. Maladministration includes unreasonable delay, discourtesy or failure to apologise. Your complaint should be made in writing to the Police Ombudsman who will consider your complaint and send you a written reply. If you are still unhappy, you can write to: Minister of Justice, Minister's Office, Block B, Castle Buildings, Belfast, BT4 3SG Link to leaflet.
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.