Police Ombudsman suspends current and historical investigations
THE Police Ombudsman has suspended all current and historical investigations as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
However, complaints about police conduct will still be accepted and the office will continue to “provide an investigative response to critical incidents where that may be necessary”.
Investigations affected include a probe relating to the deaths of three teenagers in a crush at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown on St Patrick's night last year.
The work of the ombudsman's Historical Investigations Directorate has also been temporarily suspended.
It investigates all complaints about police conduct between 1968 and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
Included in its workload is a probe into the activities of the loyalist Glenanne Gang, which killed up to 120 people in the 1970s.
In an email sent to lawyers this week, the ombudsman's office said it was a "necessary action in the current crisis due to severe staffing implications”.
Solicitor Gavin Booth, of Phoenix Law, said: “We understand that in the interim steps have to be taken to protect everybody.
“We can't sit by and let historical investigations be suspended indefinitely and we hope the Police Ombudsman is reviewing this on a weekly or monthly basis.
“What we would call for, if this is going to go on for a long time, is a process by which the ombudsman gives families access to the truth.”
A spokesman for the ombudsman said: "While a delay is unavoidable in the circumstances, we will ensure that our investigation of these matters is both thorough and robust."