§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has any proposals for the reform of the police complaints system in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Tom King
A proposal for a draft order in Council (together with an explanatory document) has been published today, setting out the Government's proposals to reform the police complaints and discipline system in Northern Ireland.
The proposed system would follow closely that which exists in the rest of the United Kingdom, and would be based on the same principle of accountability; police officers, whose training and experience best fit them for the task, would carry out complaints investigations, but subject to the guidance, control and supervision of an independent public authority whose task would be to ensure that the investigation had been carried out thoroughly, effectively, and efficiently.
The central feature of the proposals will be the establishment of the Independent Commission for Police Complaints for Northern Ireland; it will have extensive supervisory powers to control and direct the conduct of police complaints investigations. These powers mirror precisely those which have been given to the Police Complaints Authority in England and Wales.
In addition, the system in Northern Ireland will be supplemented by measures which give the Secretary of 482W State and the Police Authority powers to direct the commission to supervise the investigation of matters not the subject of a formal complaint but which indicate that a police officer may have committed a criminal or disciplinary offence in cases which affect or appear to affect the public interest. The commission will therefore be able to exercise its supervisory powers in respect of the conduct of investigations into these matters.
I consider it essential that the system for handling complaints both commands the confidence of the public and is fair to the police themselves. I believe that these proposals represent a very considerable step forward and that, with the establishment of the commission, we shall have an independent organisation which can and will ensure that complaints are fully and fairly investigated. I firmly believe that this will serve to enhance the relationship between the public and the police and will foster a climate of mutual respect and co-operation in which the police will be better placed to protect the interests of the community by upholding the law and dealing more effectively with terrorism and crime.
I have arranged for copies of the proposal to be placed in the Library of the House and have made arrangements to consult interested parties about the proposals for reform. I look forward to receiving comments and views during the consultation period following publication of the proposal and I would intend bringing forward the appropriate legislation in due course.