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Ford launches consultation on Police Ombudsman’s Office

Justice Minister David Ford has today launched a public consultation on reforms to the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (OPONI).
Wednesday, 14 March 2012

I want to ensure that flowing from this consultation process we have an Office that delivers significant benefit to the people of Northern Ireland and contributes to public confidence in the policing arrangements more widely

Minister of Justice David Ford MLA,Northern Ireland Department of Justice

These proposals are set out in two documents and cover proposed changes to the structure, role and powers of the Office.

The first is a discussion paper on OPONI produced by the Department of Justice in response to recommendations in the Tony McCusker Report.

The second is the Police Ombudsman’s Five Year Review Report on the working of Part VII of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998.

David Ford said: “This consultation outlines the potential for significant changes to the legislative framework and governance arrangements for the Ombudsman’s Office.  

I am keen to ensure that we have the best operating model for the Office going forward and I would ask people to consider the proposals and recommendations very carefully.

The existence of an effective and independent complaints system is something that the public and police have a right to expect.  It is a key part of the policing architecture in Northern Ireland intended to secure public confidence in their police service.  

I want to ensure that flowing from this consultation process we have an Office that delivers significant benefit to the people of Northern Ireland and contributes to public confidence in the policing arrangements more widely.”

The proposals include:-

  • Whether the current model for the Police Ombudsman’s office, that of a corporation sole, continues to be the most appropriate;
  • Whether it is appropriate that the Police Ombudsman can have a policing background;
  • Extension of the Police Ombudsman’s remit to include civilian ‘policing’ posts;
  • Being able to compel officers and retired officers to attend interview (although not to answer questions) and provide documentation in the investigation of grave and exceptional matters;
  • Reducing the term of the Police Ombudsman to five years, with the option of reappointment for up to a five further years; and
  • Amending the Complaints Regulations to allow the investigations of cases occurring either directly as a result of police action or indirectly due to police operations despite the fact that the death might otherwise have previously been investigated by police.

David Ford concluded: “This is a vital area of public policy and I would encourage all who have an interest to respond to this consultation.”

The closing date for this consultation is Friday 8th June 2012

Notes to editors

  1. Download consultation on the future operation of the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland
  2. Tony McCusker’s report was published in June 2011 which addressed the relationship between OPONI and the Department of Justice.  As part of his response to the review report, the Minister of Justice announced his intention to bring forward a discussion paper on the future of the office. The discussion paper is the department’s response to those findings.
  3. Part VII of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 contains the legislative provisions governing complaints against the police. The Ombudsman is statutorily obliged to conduct a review of powers and functions every five years. The first such review was conducted in 2001 by Nuala O’Loan just before she left office.  The Police Ombudsman’s Review Report rolls up the recommendations of the previous review, which were not progressed, but which hadn’t been rejected and makes some new recommendations.
  4. All media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office (028) 9052 6444.  Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 715440 and your call will be returned.