Northern Ireland

Call for inquiry into police ombudsman's office

Police Ombudsman
Image caption It is understood the documents do not refer to any case currently being investigated by the ombudsman's office

The Police Federation of Northern Ireland (PFNI) has called for a "full inquiry" into the operation of the police ombudsman.

It follows the arrest of an former ombudsman investigator over an alleged theft of sensitive security documents.

It is understood the documents contained information the police and security service MI5 believe could put the lives of individuals at risk.

The PFNI said it was an "astounding and very worrying state of affairs".

A 69-year-old man was arrested in Dartford, Kent, on Sunday after detectives from the PSNI's Serious Crime Branch conducted a joint search with local police.

'Element of fairness'

It is understood he retired from the ombudsman's office a number of years ago and that the documents do not refer to any case currently being investigated by it.

Mark Lindsay, chair of the federation, said there had to be an element of fairness for police officers under investigation.

"They need the same protections that a normal member of society would have and that doesn't exist at the moment with the ombudsman's office," he told the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme.

"There is a real role for the Police Ombudsman's office, but that office has to hold the confidence of police officers."

The police have begun a criminal investigation into the issue and have also suspended the release of any further sensitive material to the ombudsman's office until a review of security protocols is carried out.

'Serious questions'

The Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott said the ombudsman's office had serious questions to answer.

"When there's alleged wrongdoing, the PSNI should be called in at an earlier stage to investigate these matters so that they can be independently investigated," Mr Elliott told the BBC.

"There is a failure and a gap there that needs to be resolved."

In a statement to the BBC, a spokesman for the ombudsman confirmed he was alerted by police last week about the theft of sensitive material originating from the office.

The office of the Police Ombudsman said it was anticipated that this suspension of the sharing of sensitive material "will be temporary."

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