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Imperative work of Police Ombudsman remains free from political interference, says Blair

It is imperative the work of the Police Ombudsman remains independent and free from political interference, Alliance MLA John Blair has said.

The Alliance Policing Board member was speaking during an Assembly debate criticising the Ombudsman and calling for a full inspection of the organisation. Alliance MLAs voted against the DUP motion, with Mr Blair saying many bodies currently existed to scrutinise and monitor the work of the Ombudsman.

“I welcome the recognition from the DUP there is a need for an effective, efficient and independent structure for dealing with complaints against police officers,” said the South Antrim representative.

“In the past 20 years, we have seen new policing and new policing structures, following a difficult and dark time for it and the wider public. However, where there are concerns or frustrations in relation to police actions, officers need to believe complaints against them will be treated fairly and impartially, while the community requires confidence accountability mechanisms are robust and able to deal with concerns.

“The last survey on police satisfaction with the Ombudsman found 91 per cent felt they were treated with respect and 79 per cent thought they were treated fairly. For complainants, that was 73 per cent and 57 per cent. Meanwhile, among the general public, 83 per cent believe the office helps ensure police here do a good job.

“The Ombudsman is therefore meeting the expectations of the wider public. While today’s motion referenced recent court judgements touching upon methods and standards of investigative practice, criticisms which are being addressed.

“There are already bodies with scrutiny, monitoring and reporting duties in relation to the work of the Ombudsman, including the Criminal Justice Inspectorate in Northern Ireland. In addition to the inspection processes in place reporting by the Ombudsman and actions undertaken as a result of previous reports or court outcomes, it is imperative the work of the Ombudsman, like all of the organisations in the policing and justice system, remain independent and free from political interference and influence.”