Complaints against the police

If you have a complaint about the police in Northern Ireland, you can contact the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. It provides an independent impartial police complaints system for the people and the police of Northern Ireland.

Who complaints can be made against

The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland investigates complaints against:

  • Police Service of Northern Ireland
  • Belfast Harbour Police
  • Larne Harbour Police
  • Belfast International Airport Police
  • Ministry of Defence Police in Northern Ireland

Making a complaint

You must make your complaint within one year of the incident you are concerned about. You can do any one of the following:

You can also call in to the Police Ombudsman’s office from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, Monday to Friday. You don't need an appointment.

In special circumstances, complaints about things that happened more than a year before they are reported can be investigated. These will be cases where:

  • there was a previous investigation, and the Police Ombudsman considers that your complaint is grave or exceptional
  • there was a previous investigation, but there is now new evidence which was not available before, and the Police Ombudsman believes your complaint is grave or exceptional

About the Police Ombudsman

The Police Ombudsman investigates complaints about the conduct of police officers and makes recommendations on criminal, disciplinary and misconduct matters. It also:

  • investigates matters of public interest and all grave and exceptional matters referred to him and reports as needed
  • publishes reports and makes policy recommendations aimed at improved policing within Northern Ireland
  • provides statistical reports for management purposes to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Policing Board and the Justice Minister

What the Police Ombudsman will do about your complaint

When you contact the Police Ombudsman office they will:

  • arrange to take details of your complaint
  • decide how your complaint will be dealt with
  • tell you the name of the person responsible for dealing with your complaint
  • give you as much information as they can at every stage of the complaints process

Police Ombudsman’s decisions

When your complaint has been investigated, the Police Ombudsman may decide to do any of the following:

  • recommend to the Director of Public Prosecutions (the DPP) that the police officer should be prosecuted (it is for the DPP to decide whether they will prosecute the officer)
  • recommend that the Chief Constable should bring disciplinary proceedings against the officer involved - if the Police Ombudsman and the Chief Constable disagree about whether the police officer should be brought before a misconduct hearing, the Police Ombudsman can insist that the Chief Constable does so
  • recommend that disciplinary proceedings should be brought by the Policing Board if the officer you have complained about is an Assistant Chief Constable, a Deputy Chief Constable or the Chief Constable
  • recommend compensation (even if the Police Ombudsman recommends compensation, your solicitor will still tell you about any other legal rights you may have)
  • not uphold your complaint, for example, because there is not enough evidence to support it (you will be told the reasons for this decision)
  • the Police Ombudsman’s decision is final - however, if new information comes to light that you could not reasonably have known about, he may start a new investigation

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