The tenure of the current Police Ombudsman, Dr. Michael Maguire, ends in July 2019.
The appointment of a new Police Ombudsman is the sole responsibility of the joint first ministers in The Executive Office (TEO).
Had the Executive still been functioning then the process of recruitment for a new Ombudsman would have now been tasked under the supervision of both ministers in TEO. It would not be unusual that such a significant post would take anything from 9-12 months to find suitable candidates both from within and outside the jurisdiction from which to shortlist, select, and hopefully appoint.
However, given the political difficulties, not least pertaining to establishing an Executive that can effectively deliver on a range of citizens’ rights, we do not yet have an Executive. The last thing we need is the investigative rights of hundreds of families being further denied through the failure to appoint a Police Ombudsman.
As a temporary measure the Secretary of State should use her powers, for example by way of an Order in Council, to allow the current Police Ombudsman Dr. Maguire to remain in post until normal recruitment procedures can take place.
Otherwise the office would go into free fall, unable to function given that the setup is by way of body corporate sole.
If Karen Bradley did not do this then the Ombudsman’s office, all the staff, including those working on day-to-day current work, would in effect cease to function. Their work would then not be legally binding, given that the structure is by way of body corporate sole, headed by an actual Police Ombudsman.
This would be totally unacceptable, not least to the 420 families currently depending on the Ombudsman to continue his work in the historic directorate section.