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How to File a Complaint to the Police Ombudsman?

How to make a complaint

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Complaints FAQs

Try to give us as much relevant information as possible, such as:

  • The date, time and location of the incident;
  • The name, shoulder number and physical description of the person you are complaining about;
  • The name, address and telephone numbers of any witnesses;
  • The registration numbers of any vehicles involved.
  • Any other evidence such as photographs or video or audio files.

We will treat both you and the person you have complained about fairly.

We will look at the details of your complaint and decide how best to deal with it.

We may begin a formal investigation of your complaint. We would seek to gather evidence about what happened, such as witness statements, video footage, and material held by police such as police radio transmissions, medical records, forensic evidence and other information.

We will need your continued cooperation throughout the investigation. We may need, for example, to come back to you for further information.

If we believe your complaint could be resolved informally, we may ask for your consent to ask to refer it to the police for them to deal with. If you agree, the police will contact you to discuss the matter and try to reach a solution. We would later check how the police have dealt with your complaint.

We will give you as much information as we can at each stage of the process.

No. Some complaints 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. Others will be referred for informal resolution. In some instances we may need more information before a decision can be made to investigate.

This depends 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.

Nothing, the service is free.

All complaints about police misconduct are handled by the Police Ombudsman’s Office. If you make your complaint to the police, or via a solicitor, politician or other representative, it must be passed to us to deal with.

Depending on the available evidence, the Police Ombudsman might:

  • Recommend that the police officer, police employee or enforcement officer you complained about is prosecuted;
  • Recommend that they are disciplined;
  • Recommend that they receive further training;
  • Recommend that the police or other enforcement agency improves some of their working practices; or
  • Decide that the evidence does not support your complaint.

The Director of Public Prosecutions decides whether to prosecute someone. If the Director decides to prosecute, we will explain how this process works.

Recommendations for discipline are made to the PSNI Chief Constable or the head of the relevant agency. If a decision is taken to discipline a police officer, we will explain this process to you.

Whatever the outcome, when we have finished dealing with your complaint we will write to you, telling you the outcome and explaining the Police Ombudsman’s decision.

Our investigators make decisions based on the evidence they have and in accordance with relevant legislation.
We cannot change the decisions we make about your police 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.