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Police complaints report highlights 'systemic' failures

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'WIDESPREAD' and 'systemic' failures by the States police between 2009 and 2013 in its handling of complaints about officers and providing information to complainants have been uncovered following an independent investigation.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland yesterday issued a report following complaints made by Roy Boschat that the States police had failed to release documents relating to him within an adequate timeframe.

He claimed this had been done deliberately to prevent him from being able to lodge a civil claim against the force.

And the report found that had a former States police employee still been with the organisation, they would have recommended a misconduct hearing into that employee's actions. The report made 20 recommendations for improvements, which PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said had largely already been enacted.

Mr Boschat was named as a suspect in an anti-corruption investigation in 2006 following claims that he offered favours to officers in order to generate business for his vehicle-recovery firm.

The investigation was spearheaded by the then deputy police chief, Lenny Harper, who alleged that Mr Boschat gave the favours so that the officers would choose his firm to tow away vehicles involved in accidents.

At the same time, Mr Harper sent a letter to the 12 parish Constables advising them not to use Mr Boschat's company.

The former tow-truck firm owner was never convicted of a criminal offence in relation to the allegations and has previously sought significant damages in relation to the investigation which he says ended his business.

Chief Constable Hamilton said that requests should receive some form of response within 40 days but that in Mr Boschat's case it took several years for him to receive his requested information.

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Between 2009 and 2013, 12 subject access requests – which are requests for non-conviction information – were made with only two finalised within the statutory time limit. One of the 12 requests was withdrawn.

The report found that two staff – referred to as Police Officer One and Police Employee One respectively – were at the centre of Mr Boschat's allegations. Neither are still with the States police.

Chief Constable Hamilton said the failures were 'pretty widespread' and 'systemic' but were not limited to the handling of Mr Boschat's case.

Mike Bowron, the States police Chief said: 'There is no doubt that in the past the States police have been found wanting in this area, and indeed this has been highlighted in the report.

'I am pleased to confirm, however, that positive steps have been taken since the original allegations were made, and I am satisfied that most of the recommendations have been actioned since 2014 and any outstanding recommendations have specific action plans.

'I and my team are committed to maintaining our current performance of 100% compliance in terms of meeting legislative timescales.'

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