Northern Ireland

New Police Ombudsman chief executive once exonerated in high profile investigation by the agency

Hugh Hume along with other senior PSNI officers were cleared of any wrong doing by the ombudsman

Hugh Hume, the soon to be appointed chief executive of the PONI office
Hugh Hume, the soon to be appointed chief executive of the PONI office (Corporate Photographers Dublin)

A former senior PSNI officer set to take over as chief executive of the Police Ombudsman’s office was once exonerated in a high profile investigation by the agency.

Hugh Hume was cleared in 2018 of any wrongdoing along with other senior officers, including former Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris, now the Garda Commissioner.

Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson, confirming the appointment, said Mr Hume “brings a wealth of experience to the office in a career which has spanned both policing and contemporary police oversight”.

Police ombudsman for Northern Ireland Marie Anderson (Liam McBurney/PA)
Police ombudsman for Northern Ireland Marie Anderson

Mr Hume is currently a member of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission after previously serving on the force’s inspectorate from shortly after his 2017 PSNI retirement.

From 2011, he was detective chief superintendent in the the Crime Operations Department and in charge of the use of “specialist resources including air support, firearms officers, ANPR, surveillance and latterly Intelligence and analysis”.

“He joins the office at a key time as our remit for investigating legacy matters ends and we transition to a body that focuses not only on current policing, but also on demonstrating the impact of our work and influencing policing policy and practice,” Ms Anderson said.

“Hugh’s leadership of this transformational change programme will be a core part of his role.”

Mr Hume was one of a group under investigation by then Ombudsman Michael Maguire following complaints by two officers over the handling of Operation Henley.

Now retired Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland was arrested while West Yorkshire Chief Constable Mark Gilmore, formerly of the PSNI, also came under investigation in 2014 in connection with the awarding of vehicle contracts.

Duncan McCausland, chair of the Independent Complaints Panel. Picture by Press Eye/Darren Kidd
Former Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland

It was claimed by the PSNI at the time the investigation centred on suspicion of offences including bribery, misconduct in public office and procuring misconduct in public office. They were never charged and all involved denied any wrongdoing.

The pair alleged “the police use of covert methodology during its investigation was little more than a ‘fishing exercise’ and that, given their professional and personal links with senior officers involved in the investigation, there was a conflict of interest”.

Mr Maguire found no evidence that then PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton, senior management team members and other named senior police officers, were involved in criminality or misconduct.

Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Former Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire

When asked about Mr Hume being investigated, the PONI said it does not identify officers. The GSOC referred questions to the PONI.

Mr Hume is expected to begin work in a number of months, following pre-employment checks.

“His appointment follows a rigorous public competition for the post. Any potential conflicts of interest, including those associated with Mr Hume’s policing career, have been thoroughly explored as part of that recruitment process and any future potential issues identified will be managed in line with our conflict of interest policy,” the ombudsman’s office said.

Repercussions following the launch of Operation Henley in 2014 continued nearly a decade later. The two former officers took a legal case to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which hears allegations of unlawful intelligence gathering. The PSNI dropped its defence in December 2022 following several days of hearings.