North's Police Oversight Post In Focus

A new report, from the Belfast-based Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) has questioned the Police Ombudsman's independence from both the PSNI and the Northern Ireland Office.

It has also raised concerns about the recruitment process, which led to the organisation's current boss, Al Hutchinson getting the post in 2007.

The independent human rights body criticised the Police Ombudsman himself and is even calling into question his appointment after the office was established in 2000 as a 'key building block' in the peace process, as it was aimed at securing wider confidence in policing.

The CAJ document said that it has a series of serious concerns over the independence and effectiveness of the organisation.

CAJ claimed it has uncovered irregularities in appointment procedures, including that for Al Hutchinson himself, who currently holds the top post.

However, a spokesman said it had only seen CAJ's report yesterday for the first time.

"After an initial review," he told BBC NI, "it is clear that the report does not include a balanced view of the issues surrounding the investigation of historical matters, nor reflect the structural changes implemented to allow the office to deal with the doubling of historic cases in the past three years.

"The Police Ombudsman does welcome the CAJ discussion around collusion, even though they do not provide a definition," said the spokesman who also said that the Police Ombudsman would review the report and prepare a public response.

However, issues regarding Mr Hutchinson's appointment, salary and benefits and security vetting will be dealt with by the Northern Ireland Office

The CAJ review into independence of Mr Hutchinson's office began last August after families of Troubles' victims raised concerns.


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