The North's Chief Constable has been interviewed under caution after leading loyalist paramilitaries accused him of prejudicing their right to a fair trial, it was revealed today.
Hugh Orde said the Police Ombudsman's office questioned him after receiving a complaint from convicted criminals Ihab and Andre Shoukri, who are brothers, and William 'Mo' Courtney.
The loyalists claim the PSNI's top officer interfered with their right to a fair hearing in court by publicly claiming they were leading figures in the paramilitary organisation, the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).
Ihab Shoukri and Courtney are currently serving lengthy jail terms for violent crimes while Andre Shoukri is awaiting sentencing after admitting membership of the UDA at his trial last month.
Orde described the complaint as laughable and said it was indicative of a tactic used by criminals in the North to throw a smokescreen around their own wrongdoings.
"I think it's interesting these so-called big men go running to the ombudsman when we arrest them for very serious offences," he said at a Policing Board meeting in Belfast.
"I think that's an almost laughable tactic.
"But it's a very real issue for my officers who are routinely complained about, unfounded complaints, because people are trying to throw a smokescreen around quite lawful, proper and legitimate arrests and all credit to the Ombudsman, they investigate these things fully and, very frequently, find there is no case for my officers to answer."
The Ombudsman has not yet informed Orde of its findings regarding the complaint.