No comment from DoJ on loss of key figures from Police Ombudsman's office

Susie Harper. Photo: Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland
Susie Harper. Photo: Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland

​The Police Ombudsman (PONI) has confirmed that its director of current investigations, Susie Harper, has stood down, and that the search for her successor is underway.

Although there is no suggestion that Ms Harper’s departure is linked to any other issues affecting PONI at present, her resignation comes against a backdrop of disruption at the ombudsman’s office and the loss of another senior member of staff.

It emerged in recent weeks that the West Midlands Police, acting on behalf of the PSNI, are carrying out an investigation into an alleged incident at a property linked to ombudmsan Marie Anderson in Holywood on September 23.

It has also been revealed that Paul Holmes has been acting as interim chief executive since CEO Olwen Laird stood down in August.

Again, there is no suggestion that Ms Laird’s departure is related to any other issue.

Asked on Wednesday if the Department of Justice has any concerns that the operational effectiveness of the ombudsman’s office is being adversely affected by the loss of senior figures and the ongoing police probe, a DoJ spokesperson said: “We have nothing further to add to what we said previously.”

Asked last week if the department could confirm if ombudsman Marie Anderson was “working as normal” while the police investigation was ongoing, a DoJ spokesperson said: “As this is now a live investigation we have nothing further to add at this stage.”

Last month, a PSNI spokesperson said: “The PSNI have asked West Midlands Police to lead an investigation and assess whether there are any further criminal offences following an alleged incident in Co Down in September”.

Police have confirmed that a man was arrested after officers attended a domestic incident in Holywood on Saturday, September 23.

Confirming the departure of Ms Harper, PONI said: “We can confirm that Susie Harper has resigned from the director of current investigations post. We are currently advertising to fill the vacancy.”

Asked whether Mrs Anderson is working as normal, a PONI spokesman said: “Mrs Anderson is the Police Ombudsman.”