Clause 36 - Information for Director

Part of Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 5:45 pm ar 5 Chwefror 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office, Parliamentary Secretary (Northern Ireland Office) 5:45, 5 Chwefror 2002

I am happy to reassure the hon. Gentleman that, in the Government's view, what he seeks to do is achieved elsewhere in the Bill. The debate on the previous group of amendments concentrated on the mechanism that is used to give the DPP the power to refer matters for investigation to the police ombudsman, if the director considered that they would amount to a disciplinary offence. That is achieved by an amendment to section 55 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998, which is contained in clause 35(4). The mechanism is to add the DPP to a shortlist of bodies, people , the Secretary of State and the Policing Board, thus empowering him at his discretion to report matters to the ombudsman for investigation.

If that reassurance is sufficient for the hon. Gentleman, perhaps he can be persuaded to withdraw the amendment. I understand that in some circumstances the DPP may think that he does not get sufficient information, but I am not sure that it is the intention to use the ombudsman as a police service to investigate the individual circumstances of an alleged offence. That would be entirely inappropriate.

The ombudsman can investigate the failure of the police to carry out their duty. That is how the Bill is structured. One would hope that, if there ever were such a situation—I cannot imagine it developing, but I understand the hon. Gentleman's desire to cover all bases—the complaint would work in the following way. If a report to the ombudsman were upheld, the

police would be compelled to carry out an investigation and provide information in relation to the reported offence to the DPP.

The amendment suggests that if the police are not prepared to investigate and provide information to the DPP, an ombudsman should be used to do that in a normal policing investigative role. That is not what the hon. Gentleman wants, so he should find comfort in clause 35(4) and its interaction with section 55 of the 1998 Act. If he does not, I shall listen to him carefully again as to what role he thinks the ombudsman can play in an individual case.