Inquiry urged after gun sat in PSNI watchdog HQ for nine years

Lobby group complains of ‘sloppy and careless procedures’ in Police Ombudsman office

The representative body for PSNI officers has called for an inquiry into the operation of the office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. File photograph: Getty Images

The representative body for PSNI officers has called for an inquiry into the operation of the office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. File photograph: Getty Images

 

The representative body for PSNI officers has called for an inquiry into the operation of the office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (PONI) after a gun and ammunition were discovered in the filing cabinet of one of its investigators.

A spokesman for Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire, who investigates complaints against the PSNI, confirmed the gun and ammunition were found in the office. They are understood to have been in the filing cabinet for the past nine years.

“We only became aware of the gun and ammunition in June of this year. We then started an investigation,” said the spokesman.

The firearm and ammunition related to an investigation the ombudsman was conducting into a shooting in 2007 involving a number of PSNI officers.

Post resigned

The male investigator who worked with the ombudsman’s office from shortly after its establishment in 2000 resigned his post shortly after the discovery was made and the investigation began. The investigation is being carried out internally.

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland, in calling for an inquiry, said “the episode pointed to sloppy and careless internal procedures within the PONI”.

Federation chairman Mark Lindsay also called for the creation of an independent oversight body to govern the operation and internal workings of the ombudsman’s operation.

“The ombudsman’s office is quick to criticise our officers for what on most occasions are relatively minor issues.

“The bottom line is the gun and ammunition shouldn’t have been in PONI’s possession. They should have been handed over to the police instead of being left in a cabinet,” he said.

‘Lacks accountability’

“The bottom line is the Ombudsman’s Office is a law unto itself,” he added. “It doesn’t answer to any higher authority, lacks accountability and is in need of an overhaul.

“An inquiry is needed to clear up the mess and legislation must now be considered by Ministers to bring the ombudsman into line.

“We simply cannot have an office that is meant to be above board in every respect behaving in this careless and sloppy manner. There has been a serious breach of policies and procedures - and I believe someone there should be held accountable,” said Mr Lindsay.

The Police Ombudsman spokesman said he could not comment further pending the outcome of the investigation.