A senior police officer who probed criminal allegations against staff at the North's Police Ombudsman’s Office was himself under investigation by Nuala O’Loan’s team, it was disclosed today.
Amid claims that the police inquiry was seriously compromised, Public Prosecution Service director Sir Alasdair Fraser has been urged to examine the case.
Four serving and one former member of staff in the Ombudsman’s Belfast office were cleared last month after no evidence of wrongdoing was found.
Those investigated, including some in senior positions, had been questioned about perjury allegations made by another member of the Ombudsman’s staff. Mrs O’Loan was not one of the five.
Although a recommendation not to prosecute was sent to the PPS, police chiefs were today under pressure to explain their handling of the case.
Ian Paisley Jr, a Northern Ireland Policing Board representative, claimed it had been undermined by a potential conflict of interests.
He said: “The whole thing just stinks.
“It’s amazing that out of 7,500 officers they couldn’t get one who was not under investigation by the Ombudsman.
“This has seriously compromised the credibility of the inquiry.
“It must be above reproach, but this just creates the impression the Ombudsman thinks she is untouchable.”
The Democratic Unionist MLA has written to Sir Alasdair seeking action.
Concerns were also raised with Northern Ireland Deputy Chief Constable Paul Leighton at a private Policing Board session.
The high-ranking officer whose involvement is under scrutiny was appointed earlier this year.
He was brought in to probe allegations by one of Mrs O’Loan’s staff members who was, and remains, suspended from duty over a connected dispute.
The police inquiry relates to a court case involving a constable who opened fire during an incident in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim in June 2001.
After the suspended Ombudsman staff member reported his concerns, a criminal investigation was launched.
But by that stage the detective was already the subject of an ongoing investigation into his handling of an earlier murder inquiry.
Once he finished his probe, Mrs O’Loan declared her full confidence in those who had been under scrutiny.
“It has been a difficult time for those members of my staff who had these false accusations made against them,” she said last month.
But her office refused to say anything about today’s disclosures.
Mrs O’Loan’s spokesman said: “It would be inappropriate for us to comment on allegations that have been made against identifiable officers.”
The Police Service of Northern Ireland emphatically denied their inquiry was in any way flawed.
With PSNI officers regularly the subject of Ombudsman’s inquiries, a spokesman for the force said: “The investigation was carried out in an open and transparent manner and, like all investigations, it pursued all relevant evidence and lines of inquiry.
“The investigation was conducted in a thorough and professional manner.
“A decision on how to proceed was referred to the Public Prosecution Service in the interests of transparency and impartiality.”