Agreement reached over PSNI files

Agreement reached over PSNI files

The PSNI and its oversight body, the Police Ombudsman, have reached an agreement to end a dispute over access to files in the investigation of complaints against the force.

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire had been pursuing legal action against the PSNI in an attempt to force it to hand over files as part of his investigations.He claimed that the legislation his organisation worked under meant the police had to hand over any file requested as part of the ombudsman's investigations.Some of the information the watchdog requested is believed to have related to informers.The ombudsman said the inability to access files had stalled his probes into allegations and complaints against the police in 60 murder investigations.However, former Chief Constable Matt Baggott insisted handing over the material may have breached data protection legislation and human rights.Dr Maguire had been granted leave for a judicial review in Belfast High Court but a judge adjourned proceedings for the summer to enable both sides to try to reach an agreement without the need for a court battle.George Hamilton, who took over from retiring chief constable Matt Baggott in June, held talks with Dr Maguire in an effort to find consensus.The Policing Board, the PSNI's accountability mechanism, said it had now been informed by Mr Hamilton that a resolution had been reached and the legal action withdrawn.It is critical for public confidence in the service that there is police cooperation in the provision and disclosure of information to the institutions with legislative responsibility for delivery of independent oversight of the PSNI.Jonathan Craig, DUPChair of the Policing Board's performance committee Jonathan Craig said: "It is welcome that the Chief Constable has satisfactorily resolved this matter with the Police Ombudsman."The chief constable has made it clear to the board that he fully supports and values the accountability mechanisms for policing here and board members are pleased that the legal impediments in this case have now been sorted."Sinn Féin also welcomed the agreement.The party's policing spokesman, MLA Gerry Kelly said: "Sinn Féin has repeatedly called for these files to be released to the ombudsman."The independence of the Police Ombudsman's office is central to building public confidence in policing."Therefore I welcome today's decision by the new Chief Constable George Hamilton to release the files requested by Michael Maguire."


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