Bail scandal: ombudsman considering his own police probe

Dr Michael Maguire, the Police Ombudsman
Dr Michael Maguire, the Police Ombudsman

The police ombudsman is considering the relatively unusual step of beginning an investigation on the basis of his own concerns into the PSNI’s handling of the Damien McLaughlin bail debacle.

While the overwhelming bulk of police ombudsman probes are the result of complaints lodged with his office by other people, the ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire nonetheless has the power to “call in” cases he believes are serious enough to warrant attention, even if no-one has complained.

It is understood that, at time of writing yesterday, no-one had lodged an official complaint with the office.

McLaughlin denies a number of terror offences linked to the David Black murder, and has yet to stand trial – see details here.

The Police Ombudsman’s office said: “We are making enquiries with the PSNI to establish the circumstances surrounding this incident.

“This will inform a decision by the police ombudsman on whether to commence an independent investigation into what has happened.”

The decision to “call in” a case is comparatively rare.

For example, in 2015/2016, the ombudsman’s office received 3,018 complaints (of which slightly over half proceeded to investigation).

Out of that, just 14 of the cases had been “called in” by the ombudsman himself.

In other years, the numbers are even more stark; for example, in 2014/15 there were 3,369 complaints, of which just five were “call ins”.

It is thought the ombudsman could make a decision within days on whether to proceed with a full investigation.