The new Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson has warned that his office is in danger of reaching a “tipping point” because of its heavy workload.
In his first interview since taking over the post the former Canadian Mountie, said the British government needs to look at alternative ways of dealing with investigations into allegations of collusion.
The ombudsman’s office has more than 100 ‘historical’ complaints against police on its books.
Mr Hutchinson, who took over the watchdog role from Nuala O’Loan in November, said it is struggling to cope with the number of cases of failures and misconduct by the RUC/PSNI police.
“We have 109 historical cases and many more coming through the from the [PSNI’s] Historical Enquiries Team,” he said.
“Some 70 per cent of those are pending, meaning we simply don’t have the resources to deal with them at present.
“I’m running two businesses here, one in the past and one in the present, and the workload in the past is overwhelming.
“We are having to shift more and more resources to the past.
“I’ve used the words tipping point and we are really coming up to a tipping point.”
This week the ombudsman released a non-committal report into an investigation into the 1988 shooting of RUC man John Larmour.
It is the second report that Mr Hutchinson has delivered since taking over.
The report failed to reveal if an IRA informer was behind the killing of RUC policeman John Larmour in 1988. The attack was never subsequently investigated.
Mr Larmour’s son, Gavin, believes the killing was overlooked by the RUC in order to bolster the position of one of their spies within the ranks of the IRA.
Hutchinson said only that the RUC were “under considerable pressure” during the period and that the investigation fell “far short of what would have been expected”.
“There is a perception though that as a former police officer I would align myself on the side of the police and I can assure you that’s not true,” said Hutchinson.
“I strive to get to the truth in a fair and impartial manner. It’s important that we hold the police to account when they do fail and I will be judged on my results.
“Should the Eames/Bradley report and the two governments ultimately decide that there is a better method to deal with the period between 1968 and 1998 then certainly they could have our resources to deal with that.
“Should that be either in a evidentiary collection mode or in an information mode is for government and broader society to decide.
“My view right now is that while legislation compels me to, we will investigate complaints to the best of my ability because the victims and families require some resolution.
“Whether in future that involves a police ombudsman or not is for broader societal debate.”
* The family of a west Belfast man shot dead five years ago are demanding a full investigation into claims that at least two informers linked to his death are being protected by the PSNI police.
Father-of-six Danny McGurk was shot dead without warning in front of his wife and children in August 2003 following a local dispute.
The Real IRA has admitted that at least one of the three people involved in the murder was working for the PSNI as a spy.
The McGurk family say that new evidence has emerged linking at least two informers with the killing.
“We want to know the truth about Danny’s murder because we have evidence that at least two informers are being protected by the PSNI,” Danny McGurk’s sister Geraldine said.