Al Hutchison to be next Police Ombudsman?

The BBC have been reporting that Al Hutichson, formerly the Police Oversight Commissioner, is to be appointed as the next Police Ombudsman – replacing Nuala O’Loan when she steps down later this year. Probably a good time to remind everyone of Al Hutichson’s recent comments in his final report as Oversight Commissioner... which were followed by comments from Kit Chivers, the criminal justice inspector for Northern Ireland.. and by Senator Maurice Hayes.. before we had Friday’s announcement of the consultation group. Adds “it is understood” that he is to be appointed Now confirmed – “after a rigorous selection process which adhered to public appointment guidelines.”In his final report, Al Huchison said

The dilemma is this: Is there going to be a continual debilitating drip-feed of speculation, inquires and investigations into past police practice, or is the majority of the Northern Ireland society willing to move on, in some yet-to-be-defined manner, and regard the Police Service of Northern Ireland as a new organisation that has itself moved on and demonstrated that it has learned from the past? It is a serious question and deserves serious reflection.

I have not previously publicly discussed this issue, simply because it is so emotive and almost defies rational discussion. Who can argue against a search for truth and justice after losing loved ones because of alleged security forces collusion? Who can argue against a search for truth and justice for the thousands of victims and their families, from many communities? As noted recently by the Police Service Superintendents Association, there should not be a hierarchy of victims. This includes the 302 police officers who lost their lives, and their surviving families. How can they be excluded from a search for truth and justice?

I am raising the issue of ‘policing the past’ from the singular perspective of policing the future of Northern Ireland. I do believe that the Northern Ireland society somehow has to find the proper architecture to deal with the past, and learn from it. The past is a place no longer inhabited, except with our imperfect memories. The future, for our children and grandchildren, should be the destination of choice. I do not have a magical solution or elixir, I wish I did. I do know that organisations such as the Historical Enquires Team and the Ombudsman’s office are blunt instruments too narrowly focused to use in a search for truth and justice for societal challenges. While they are simply doing what is required by mandate and law, they raise expectations that cannot be met, and distract from the task of finding a societal resolution to the past.

, , ,

  • Sean

    get out the brushes and let the white washing begin

  • gareth mccord

    just as expected no hope for justice and truth!!

  • joeCanuck

    FFS lads.
    The man isn’t even in the job yet and you’re accusing him of what, I do not know.

  • gareth mccord

    joe if you do not know then why are you saying we are accusing???
    wakey wakey

  • Rory

    While there is indeed strong argument for letting go of the past and attempting to move forward with goodwill and an attempt to overcome resentment from all parties – there is one serious thought that must be weighed against that argument.

    It is this: if, God forbid, renewed conflict should ever arise in the future and the same old protagonists arose, refereshed, to battle then, no matter what account the actors in the past struggle had been called to or what punishment they received would be likely to have any effect on the behaviour of the republican of loyalist forces. But, if, the PSNI were strongly concious that to act other than within the rule of law would mean that some time they would be called to account is more likely to have a positive affect on their behaviour.

    That certain understanding within the PSNI might also act as a strong assurance to the populace that, in the new dispensation of peace, the PSNI are less likely to behave with the impunity of their forebears in the RUC when they misbehave and so help bulid confidence among the community in the new police service which in turn can only but further erode any fears of a return to future conflict.

  • joeCanuck

    “let the white washing begin”
    “No hope for justice”

    Are you sleeping walking Gareth?

  • James

    This was confirmed about 2pm today in a press release – why are the BBC saying “it is understood”?

  • jone


    It’s cos the press release was embargoed until 0001 but it was stood up independently through other sources.

    The ‘it is understood’ is a way for the hacks to signal to the Ombudsman’s office that they didn’t just break the embargo for the hell of it.

  • No one will be surprised about this appointment nor that the UK State is using the PSNI as their barrier in their attempt to block a T@RC. It is still early days, we have also just had the UK governments decision not to prosecute those of their employees who colluded in the Murder of Pat Finucane.

    Which in itself should spur on all those who believe the truth must be outed.

  • Sam Flanagan

    Google “avishai raviv” and apply the parallels to N.Ireland.

  • gareth mccord

    joe dont drink and blog:-)

  • So, Joe, do you think a truth and reconciliation commission would be better than “a continual debilitating drip-feed of speculation, inquires and investigations into past police practice” as the article puts it?

    I don’t know what the answer is, though I’m interested in what people think. The thing is, what are we trying to achieve?

  • doh! sorry – I meant mickhall.

    Is this about outing the truth, to show up how bad one of the sides was – or about justice and closure for all victims – or what?

  • joeCanuck

    I’ll give my opinion anyway Paul.
    Sadly, I don’t think families are now going to get justice.
    But I firmly believe that the least they deserve is the truth.
    Don’t know if they will get it because it’s the truth on all sides and although there is a fair amount of fingerpointing at the State, I don’t think that any of the murder gangs want the whole truth to be known.

  • Paul,

    I agree with Joe, a T@RC is not about Justice for the victims in the commonly understood sense, but as Joe writes it is about getting at the truth; and not only for the victims and their families but for all of us who live in the United kingdom and Ireland. For if we have no idea what actually occurred in the darkest corners during the years of the long war, how can we even attempt to make sure it is not repeated.

  • ath

    I say stuff it all. Clearly, both sides performed dispicable acts – why waste the cash? How about all the partys say let sleeping dogs lie, and the 2 governments reward us with a few billion for the economy, rather than spending billions in rehashing the past???

  • nmc

    Bring it on. I would like to see all sides exposed, in this way possibly the siesmic shift in NI opinion will happen. When we all see that none the three main groups involved in Our Wee Conflict (ussuns, themmuns and the cops) are blameless possibly we would then be able to re-evaluate our voting patterns.

  • splurge

    Agree totally with “ath”. They’d have been far better giving the Bloody Sunday families a few million each and an apology. We’re going to end up with all sorts of categories of victims, from the totally innocent to the totally guilty but still dead. It’s too late. And the people who really started it like Ian Paisley will simply wipe their hands clean and walk away saying it was nothing to do with them. I have a cousin who has been a mental wreck for twenty years after witnessing a murder. He’ll never appear on any list of “victims”.