Criminal Justice Inspection NI to review Police Ombudsman’s independence

The Northern Ireland Justice Minister, David Ford, has already commissioned former civil servant Tony McCusker to examine the allegations made against Department of Justice civil servants by Sam Pollock when he resigned as Chief Executive at the NI Police Ombudsman.

And, by the end of last week, the Police Ombudsman, Al Hutchison, had asked the Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland to conduct a review of the operational independence of the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland from the PSNI.

From the BBC report

The Police Ombudsman, Al Hutchinson, said he welcomed the appointment of Mr McCusker but that his review would not deal with all the issues raised in the wake of Mr Pollock’s resignation.

“Mr McCusker’s terms of reference do not address the alleged lack of operational independence from the PSNI.

“I have categorically refuted such suggestions and have stated that the office has both real and practical independence from the PSNI.”

Mr Maguire said his report would provide “an impartial, evidence-based analysis of the relationship between the Police Ombudsman’s Office and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.”

Perhaps we should have a review of the relationship between the NI Justice Department and the PSNI while we’re at it…

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  • “Perhaps we should have a review of the relationship between the NI Justice Department and the PSNI while we’re at it…”

    A very reasonable suggestion, Pete, not least in connection with the Sam Pollock claims. One **independent** review could easily have covered all three bases in this curious affair. I’ve previously draw attention to potential conflicts of interest through shared membership of the Chief Executives Forum: Sam Pollock (PONI CE), Matt Baggott (PSNI CC), Nick Perry (DoJ PS) and Brendan McGuigan (CJINI CE and Maguire’s deputy)

  • Oh dear, we just might find out why our particular PONI trek has been so arduous and what bit-part the “reformed” Police Service of Northern Ireland had in the narrative – even from the first botched and retracted report to the one that was published.
    The meeting between Messrs Hutchinson and Baggott the Friday before the release of the published McGurk’s report should be of especial interest. We may just find out what was discussed and why it became so heated. I’ll also be very interested to find out who else was there and why.
    Goodness, we’ll be running out of “independent” bodies to do impartial investigations soon. I wonder what Nuala thinks about this quagmire.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Ciarán

    I wonder what Nuala thinks about this quagmire.

    I would agree there, I don’t think the current Ombudsman is half as up to the job as she was.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “I have categorically refuted such suggestions and have stated that the office has both real and practical independence from the PSNI.”

    That’s a very brave statement if somehow Dr Maguire’s “independent report” disagrees.

    I wonder if *his* terms of reference includes the phrase “provide assurance”?

  • Pigeon Toes

    http://www.cjini.org/NewsAndEvents/2009/2010-(1)/January—March/Summary-of-Criminal-Justice-Inspection-Northern-Ir.aspx

    “25 March 2011
    CJI has today published a summary of its inspection report findings for 2010. This document gives an overview of the breadth of work undertaken during the year by the Inspectorate together with the key findings.

    The inspection work is a mix of organisation specific studies, follow-up work on previous inspections and thematic inspections that involve more than one organisation. ”

    Obviously the Ombudsman has not been part of their remit prior to last month. Or does the Ombudsman oversee the CJI, and in turn does the Dept over see both?

  • Pigeon Toes

    http://www.cjini.org/AboutUs.aspx

    “Who funds CJI?

    Funding of CJI transferred to the Department of Justice (DoJ) following the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly on 12 April 2010.
    Prior to devolution, CJI was funded by the Northern Ireland Office.”

  • PT, I wonder if any of our head honchos have ever been seriously bitten by a watchdog; I wonder how many such honchos have been invited to check ‘independent’ watchdog reports for factual accuracy.

  • “I’ll also be very interested to find out who else was there and why.”

    Ciarán, if any London civil servants were there you might not be told on grounds of national security; if any Dublin civil servants were there you would be refused the information as inter-governmental exchanges are in secret. Fog descends very quickly when difficult questions are asked.

  • Of course, if anything biting in any of these reports coming out of the inquiries, comes to light, there’s always that old standby, the ‘thirty year rule’. we’ll probably find out round about 2040, if at all. Mrs O’Loan’s nemesis Ian jnr, must be delighted with Mr Hutchinson.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Does anyone actually believe the term “independent report/review/ investigation” any more?

    Come to think of it, does anyone believe that any body e.g NIAO are as “independent of government” as they profess?

  • Nevin,
    Too true and well we know (having had to deal with nearly forty years worth of fog). If Mr. Sam Pollock was present, we may yet know. Let’s hope that this man, whose very human presentation to our families greatly affected all of us present, will go public. It’ll be difficult to keep all his concerns in camera – hopefully – although nothing will ever surprise me now.

  • Pete Baker
  • “Come to think of it, does anyone believe that any body e.g NIAO are as “independent of government” as they profess?”

    PT, it might be worth using this little snippet from NALIL blog as a benchmark in order to anticipate certain patterns of behaviour:

    “However, the DRD’s Permanent Secretary, Paul Priestly, commissioned a series of ‘independent’ investigations instead and these culminated in the publication of a report in December 2008, a report that the Committee for Regional Development has yet to scrutinise.

    NIAO published its brief review of the DRD report in its Annual Report [pdf file] in May 2009. Following a Freedom of Information request it’s now been revealed that Paul Priestly requested alterations to the review while it was being drafted.

    Priestly [20 Feb 2009]: “Rather than creating a perception of favouritism the impact of the lapses [in basic good practice] was that it was difficult, without a formal investigation, to refute the various allegations when they were picked up by politicians.”

    Was it not the duty of Government to examine the allegations and make good whatever lapses were identified rather than go to whatever lengths were necessary to refute the allegations?”

  • Pigeon Toes

    Pete,
    First of all not a *guy* BUT possible conflict of interest?

    http://www.cjini.org/AboutUs.aspx

    “Who funds CJI?

    Funding of CJI transferred to the Department of Justice (DoJ) following the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly on 12 April 2010.
    Prior to devolution, CJI was funded by the Northern Ireland Office.”

    P.S. Was exceptionally grateful for tinfoil on dinner this evening. Stopped the bird from burning, and therefore it *does* work 😀

  • Ciarán, I found the following reference by Vincent Kearney on 14 April 2011 quite disturbing: “Mr Pollock alleges he was subjected to malicious personal attacks after raising his concerns.”

  • Cynic2

    So there’s no dispute between Big Al and Wee Davy….but the Terms of Reference of Wee Davy’s inquiry are so weak that Big Al is forced to bring in his own to cover the issues that really matter.

    Forgive me, but that does suggest something of a schism between the two. Or perhaps its just a Government recession busting Job Creation exercise?

    Now why has this Swiftian farce been necessary? Could it be that DOJ officials have tried to carefully shape the TOR of McCusker’s inquiry to make sure he doesn’t look at some of the things they may / may not have been up to? Heaven forfend that that should happen or that Wee Davey would sign off on it. Perhaps with all the election etc it slipped him by / was buried at the bottom of his box (an old NIO trick) so he just signed it without thinking. The truth should be told.

  • Cynic2, this reworked Swift quote may be apt: “‘Independent’ investigations are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.” The odds would appear to be against those who expose system ‘malfunctions’.

  • Pete, your opening gambit on 14 April was presumably based on earlier perceptions of ‘in house’ investigations: “Hmm .. “report” .. “independent”.” Is the tinfoil now filtering out/blocking these quotation marks?