A former Canadian Mountie who headed the body to oversee the new policing arrangements in the North takes charge today of the office set up to investigate complaints against the service.
Al Hutchinson replaces Nuala O’Loan, who has been Police Ombudsman for the past six years. He is a former assistant commissioner with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Mr Hutchinson, who was with the Mounties for 34 years before coming to Belfast to become the policing oversight commissioner, said he was in an ideal position to deal with the issues he will face in his new role.
He said Mrs O’Loan and her team of officers had won an international reputation for independence and impartiality.
Mr Hutchinson added: “By providing a system which is independent, impartial and effective, both the public and the police alike can have confidence that complaints will be dealt with properly and where lessons can be learned and things improved, this will happen.
“In doing this, I hope we can contribute to helping ensure every resident in Northern Ireland receives their entitlement to the best possible policing service. I am committed to working with all those that share that vision.”
The Ombudsman’s office, which has a staff of 150, receives an estimated 3,000 complaints a year.
Mrs O’Loan said Mr Hutchinson was a person of proven integrity.
She added: “As oversight commissioner, Al Hutchinson gained first hand experience of many of the issues facing policing in Northern Ireland.
“He is a man with a strong reputation for integrity. I have no doubt that he and the staff I leave behind will not shirk from the challenge of continuing to provide a police complaints system which is independent, impartial, evidence-based and accountable.”