Independent review into claims Police Ombudsman reports were concealed

The late Claire Kelly from Dungiven. 1312JB152
The late Claire Kelly from Dungiven. 1312JB152

An independent review is to be conducted into allegations Police Ombudsman reports into the pursuit of a drunk driver who later crashed and killed his passenger were concealed.

Denise McAuley’s daughter, 20-year-old Claire Kelly, was a passenger in a car driven by a drunk driver which was pursued by police after speeding off from a checkpoint in the village of Feeny in December 2011. The car later crashed into a field and overturned, trapping Claire inside. She later died in hospital.

The Police Ombudsman completed an investigation in 2015 into the role police played in the sequence of events leading up to the crash. It identified no causal link between the way the police car was driven by ‘Officer A’ and Miss Kelly’s death.

It was subsequently claimed Police Ombudsman reports into the pursuit - all containing varying recommendations from three separate investigators - appeared to have been concealed from Claire Kelly’s family.

Following the collapse of the judicial review hearing, Denise McAuley lodged a complaint against the conduct of the Police Ombudsman alleging he had deliberately concealed reports from her.

Ms McAuley called for the Department of Justice to undertake an independent review of her complaint, but the Department of Justice stated the review should be undertaken in the first instance by the Police Ombudsman’s Office.

Denise McAuley then launched a judicial review challenging the legality of the decision of the Department of Justice not to undertake an independent investigation.

On Friday it was confirmed the Department of Justice had reconsidered its decision and would undertake an independent review into the allegations against the Police Ombudsman.

The Department of Justice further agreed to pay the applicant’s costs.

Ms McAuley’s solicitor, Stephen Atherton said: “At various stages since the death of her daughter, Denise McAuley has been let down by the police, the Public Prosecution Service and the Police Ombudsman.

“My client wanted to avoid court proceedings, but when the Department failed to undertake an independent review she was left with no choice. We are grateful that the Department has now reconsidered its position and we hope that the investigation proceeds with urgency.”

A spokesperson for the Police Ombudsman’s Office said: “We will fully co-operate and provide whatever information is required during the review.”