Published Tuesday, 17 July 2012
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Dr Michael Maguire said: "The police complaints system must be wholly independent if it is to have the confidence of the public and the police."
The ex-chief inspector of the Criminal Justice Inspection has replaced Al Hutchinson who stood down last January. This followed heavy criticism of the performance of the Canadian's office in separate investigations linked to failed and controversial RUC inquiries into the Loughinisland shootings in June 1994, the bombing of McGurk's bar in December 1971 and the atrocity at Claudy in July 1972.
There were claims the office had become divided and dysfunctional and that its independence had been compromised. Chief executive Sam Pollock quit because of his dissatisfaction.
However, Dr Maguire made clear his plans to ensure the handling of complaints about the conduct of police officers would be carried out in a totally independent manner and to the highest of standards.
He said: "The police complaints system must be wholly independent if it is to have the confidence of the public and the police.
"While we will listen to the views of others on improvements to the service we provide to the community, no-one should be in any doubt that the decisions and conclusions reached in individual complaints will be a matter for my office and my office alone."
Dr Maguire added: "The main problems identified by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate related to the 'historical' investigations alone and were largely failures in processes and systems. For most of the last year, the staff have been putting in place new policies and procedures.
"Good progress has been made and an important priority will be to commence once again investigations into 'historical' cases and to ensure that the quality of those investigations is as good as it can be.
"We will also look at how cases are prioritised and the ways in which the office engages with the police, families and their representatives."
The Ombudsman's Office receives more than 3,000 complaints each year about current policing and the conduct of police officers. It also identifies issues with policing policy and procedures and makes recommendations for improvement to the PSNI.
Dr Maguire said: "Looking to the future, I would like to see a greater focus on following up on the recommendations and identifying their impact on operational policing for the benefit of the community."