HC Deb 10 December 1998 vol 322 cc273-5W
Mr. McNamara

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if she will list(a) the steps she is taking to increase public confidence in police complaints procedures, (b) the measures taken to assure complainants that they may supply information confidentially and without fear of intimidation and (c) in cases where an interview is required to obtain further information, what choices are offered to a complainant with regard to (i) the time, date and location of interview, (ii) the gender of interviewer and (iii) whether a non-uniformed or civilian interviewer is preferred. [61970]

Mr. Ingram

[holding answer 9 December 1998]: (a) The Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 provides for the establishment of a new office of Police Ombudsman to handle complaints against the police. The Ombudsman will have complete control of the complaints process. The Ombudsman will independently investigate all serious complaints against the police and will decide how others Lagan Valley Regional Park, within the Borough of Lisburn, since the commencement of the Lagan Valley Regional Park Local Plan; and how many of these applications have received planning permission. [62904]

Mr. Paul Murphy

Responsibility for the subject in question has been delegated to the Planning Service under its Chief Executive, Mr. T. W. Stewart. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from T. W. Stewart to Mr. Jeffrey Donaldson, dated 10 December 1998: The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your recent Question about planning permissions granted for residential and commercial developments in the Lagan Valley Regional Park, within the Borough of Lisburn, since the commencement of the Lagan Valley Regional Park Local Plan. Details of the number of applications submitted since the Plan was adopted on 13 March 1995 are set out in the table below.

are to be investigated. The new system is designed to secure the confidence of both the public and the police. The Ombudsman will be appointed on 1 March 1999 and the new body will be functioning by summer 1999.

(b) Information and statements provided by complainants are confidential documents. They are disclosed only in circumstances considered necessary to the investigation and in accordance with:

  1. (i) the RUC (Discipline and Disciplinary Appeals) Regulations 1988;
  2. (ii) NIO Guidance to the Chief Constable on Police Complaints and Discipline Procedures;
  3. (iii) the code and legislation dealing with disclosure in respect of criminal prosecutions;
  4. (iv) rules relating to disclosure in civil proceedings.

If, of course, there was intimidation, then this would be grounds for a complaint.

(cl) The initial letter forwarded to the complainant by the RUC Investigating Officer usually offers an interview, at a specified date and time, at the most suitable and convenient Police Station. The letter also invites the complainant to telephone, or reply by returning a proforma in an addressed and prepaid envelope.

Should a complainant, or their solicitor, wish the interview to take place elsewhere, every effort is made to accommodate their request. Interviews can take place at the offices of the Independent Commission for Police Complaints and at other mutually acceptable locations, including solicitors' offices, homes of complainants and third parties and Church or Community Halls.

(c2) Whilst no choice is offered on gender of the interviewer, the RUC do ensure that the most appropriate Investigating Officer is appointed having regard to the circumstances of the case. In supervised cases, it is open to the Independent Commission for Police Complaints, to approve, or otherwise, the appointment of a particular officer.

(c3) The 1998 regulations require that Investigating Officers are police officers. These officers operate in plain clothes.

In future, under the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998, there will be greater opportunity for interviews at neutral venues, and by the independent investigators of the Police Ombudsman.