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What You Can Complain About to NI Police Ombudsman

You can make a complaint about anything a police officer does during the course of their duties that causes you concern. That can be anything ranging from rudeness right up to concerns about serious criminality.

We deal with complaints about the conduct of:

  • Police officers and some others employed by the Police Service of Northern Ireland;
  • Belfast Harbour Police;
  • Belfast International Airport Police;
  • National Crime Agency Officers in Northern Ireland (serious cases);
  • Ministry of Defence Police in Northern Ireland (serious cases);
  • Immigration and Border Agency officials in Northern Ireland (serious cases);
  • Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (serious cases).

We do not deal with complaints about:

  • Police operational matters, such as the way police prioritise their work or how they manage their operations or the number of police assigned to an area;
  • Police officers who are off duty, unless the fact that they are a police officer is relevant, such if they tell you they are a police officer;
  • Police officers and police employees who have retired, unless the complaint is that they broke the law while working for the police.

Please Note:

  • You must normally make a complaint within one year of the incident you are concerned about.
  • Generally the sooner you make your complaint the better. Some evidence may be lost as time passes.
  • The Police Ombudsman can investigate complaints about incidents that happened more than a year before being reported to us if she considers the issues involved to be grave or exceptional.
  • Normally, we can investigate only if you were personally involved or affected by the incident, or are acting on behalf of somebody who was.
  • We may be required to share your information with other parties, both during the investigation of your complaint and in order to comply with our statutory obligations. More information about when we might share your information is available in our Privacy Notice

Historical Investigations:

The Police Ombudsman's remit for investigating grave or exceptional matters relating to the actions of police officers during the conflict in Northern Ireland between 1968 and 1998 (commonly known as "The Troubles") ended on 30 April 2024.

From 1 May 2024, the power to investigate deaths and serious injuries related to the Troubles between 1 January 1966 and 10 April 1998 became the responsibility of the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR).

Transitional arrangements under the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act 2023 will allow for the completion of reports and related administrative tasks in cases where Police Ombudsman investigations have concluded.

The Police Ombudsman's Office aims to conclude 95 Troubles-related cases by 30 April 2025.


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.