Dispute over PSNI’s refusal to pass files to watchdog is resolved

PSNI chief constable George Hamilton said his priority must be defending the public today

PSNI chief constable George Hamilton said his priority must be defending the public today

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A dispute over the police’s refusal to disclose sensitive files to a watchdog investigating complaints against officers in Northern Ireland has been resolved.

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire had been pursuing legal action against the PSNI in an attempt to force it to hand over the documentation - some of it believed to relate to informers.

The ombudsman had claimed an inability to access files has stalled his probes into allegations and complaints against the police relating to 60 murder investigations.

But former PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott insisted handing over the material may have breached data protection legislation.

Dr Maguire had been granted leave for a judicial review in Belfast High Court but a judge adjourned proceedings for the summer to enable both sides to try to reach an agreement without the need for a court battle.

George Hamilton, who took over from retiring chief constable Matt Baggott in June, held talks with Dr Maguire in an effort to find consensus.

The Policing Board, the PSNI’s oversight body, said it had now been informed by Mr Hamilton that a resolution had been reached and the legal action had been withdrawn.

Chair of the Policing Board’s Performance Committee Jonathan Craig said: “It is welcome that the Chief Constable has satisfactorily resolved this matter with the Police Ombudsman.

“It is critical for public confidence in the service that there is police cooperation in the provision and disclosure of information to the institutions with legislative responsibility for delivery of independent oversight of the PSNI.

“The Chief Constable has made it clear to the Board that he fully supports and values the accountability mechanisms for policing here and Board Members are pleased that the legal impediments in this case have now been sorted.”