19/10/2017

Police Chief Under Investigation Over Alleged Misconduct In Public Office

Northern Ireland's police chief is being investigated over alleged misconduct in public office.

Mr George Hamilton and a number of other PSNI officers are being investigated by the Police Ombudsman.

The claims are in relation to how the police handled an inquiry into the awarding of a contract to supply vehicles to the force.

The PSNI said they "completely refute" all allegations.

The former West Yorkshire chief constable Mark Gilmore, who is a former PSNI officer, and retired PSNI assistant chief constable Duncan McCausland were among nine people interviewed by detectives in the 2014 investigation into bribery and misconduct in public office.

No charges were brought against any of them and they denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Hamilton, current Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris and current Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton are all now being investigated by Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire.

A number of other officers are also under investigation.

In a statement the PSNI said: "The complaints relate to allegations of misconduct by senior police during a criminal investigation by the PSNI into the two complainants, former senior colleagues, during 2014.

"PSNI acknowledges and supports the need for the Office of the Police Ombudsman to investigate these allegations and all officers are cooperating fully with the investigation.

"The chief constable, deputy chief constable and other officers completely refute the allegations made against them and are strongly of the view that these complex investigations into the complainants were conducted with professionalism and integrity. This position has been fully outlined in the officers' initial response to Oponi (Office of Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland).

"Whilst ordinarily the police service would limit its responses on matters where it is under investigation, this case has particular and unusual aspects to it. This case has been the subject of recent speculative press and media coverage which has the potential to negatively impact on public confidence in policing.
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"We have full confidence in the Oponi to complete a thorough investigation and we trust that they are left to do so without ongoing public commentary."

The Police Ombudsman's Office said: "The Police Ombudsman’s Office has begun an investigation into concerns about the way in which the PSNI conducted an investigation into allegations of bribery and misconduct in public office in 2014.

"The office is investigating allegations of criminality and misconduct in how this investigation was undertaken by police.

"It has not named the police officers under investigation, but has confirmed that they include a range of officers, including those above the rank of chief superintendent.

"The Police Ombudsman has declared the matter to be a ‘critical incident’ - an issue the outcome of which could have a significant impact on the person making the complaint, on the police or on the wider community.

"A team has been set up to look into these matters. It includes six investigators and has access to external legal advice.

"Given that some of the officers are above the level of chief superintendent, the Policing Board (the PSNI's independent oversight body) has been notified. The office has not recommended the suspension of any of the police officers concerned."

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said: "The news that the Ombudsman is investigating three of the most senior officers in the PSNI including the Chief Constable is a matter of huge concern to the public.

"The Ombudsman in treating this as a 'critical incident' makes this so.

"No one is above the law and every citizen is equal under the law.

"The investigation should be thorough and carried out with impartiality.

"The Ombudsman's Office has not recommended suspension of any of those being investigated.

"We expect the Ombudsman to keep this under review."

SDLP Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly said: "The allegations levelled against senior PSNI officers, including the Chief Constable, will have shocked many people today.

"I have every confidence that the Police Ombudsman will conduct a thorough investigation that gets to the truth of the matter.

"The new beginning to policing was hard won, we must all defend its integrity. The best way to do that is to allow the Police Ombudsman’s independent investigation to continue."

(CD)




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