NI: Marie Anderson formally takes up Police Ombudsman role
The new Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Marie Anderson, has formally taken up her role with a promise to build on the independence of the organisation and ensure the investigation of complaints meets modern Ombudsman standards.
Ms Anderson, a solicitor by profession, is the fourth person to head the police complaints body in Northern Ireland.
She previously served as the Northern Ireland Ombudsman, investigating complaints about public services, local government standards and judicial appointments, since 2016. Before that, she was Deputy Ombudsman for seven years an the Assistant Information Commissioner for five years, establishing the Information Commissioner’s Office in Northern Ireland.
Speaking as she took up the new role, Ms Anderson paid tribute to her predecessor Dr Michael Maguire for what she called his robust independence and tenacity.
She said: “I believe the Police Ombudsman’s Office got it right from day one when it give as its commitment ‘independent, impartial investigation.’ It was right then and it is right now.
“Some of the most significant issues in recent times in Northern Ireland have been about the performance of our public services and officials. People demand accountability from those who serve us.
“In my experience, when any process for investigating complaints cannot evidence the independence and impartiality of its findings, the public will lose confidence in it.”
The Police Ombudsman’s Office, with an annual budget of more than £9 million and around 150 employees, deals with more than 2,600 complaints about the conduct of serving police officers every year. It is also dealing with more than 400 complaints about matters related to events during The Troubles.
Setting out her priorities, Mrs Anderson said: “I will be looking at the Office’s complaints and investigation procedures to ensure they are fair and underpin its independence. This will include meeting complainants to the Office and police officers as well members of the Policing Board and the Policing and Community Safety Partnerships.
“I want to satisfy myself that the processes for investigating complaints about police are as simple and accessible as they can be for the user and ensure transparency and learning for the PSNI.
“All public bodies should be open to learning and improvement. The Police Ombudsman’s Office is no different.”