Retirement of Prisoner Ombudsman Tom McGonigle

Date published: 24 August 2017

The Prisoner Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Mr Tom McGonigle, will retire from post on 31 August. Mr McGonigle has held the position since 2013.

A public appointment competition to select a successor was held earlier this year and a number of suitable candidates have been identified.  The successful candidate will be announced following the appointment of a Justice Minister.

In the interim, the Chief Inspector of the Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland, Mr Brendan McGuigan will oversee the work of the Prisoner Ombudsman’s office until a successor is appointed.

Department of Justice Permanent Secretary, Nick Perry, said: “I wish to place on record the Department’s gratitude to Tom McGonigle for his dedicated service.  His professionalism and leadership in office has, without doubt, helped ensure that prisoners and their visitors could have confidence that any concerns they may have had would be independently and thoroughly investigated.” 

Mr Perry, continued: “I am grateful to Brendan McGuigan for undertaking oversight of the office until a new Ombudsman is appointed.  Given the synergies between the Ombudsman’s office and CJINI, in terms of providing independent and impartial oversight of criminal justice bodies, I am confident that this interim arrangement will ensure the integrity of the Ombudsman’s office until a successor is appointed.”

The interim arrangements will come into effect on 1 September 2017.

Notes to editors: 

1.         The Prisoner Ombudsman is appointed by the Minister of Justice for Northern Ireland and is completely independent of the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS).  The Ombudsman is supported by a team of investigators and other support staff.

2.         The Prisoner Ombudsman investigates:

  • complaints from prisoners held in NI;
  • visitors to prisoners held in NI; and
  • deaths in Prison Service custody in NI.

3.         Tom McGonigle was appointed Prisoner Ombudsman in 2013 following a selection process regulated by the Commissioner for Public Appointments (CPANI).

4.         The process for placing the Ombudsman’s Office on a statutory footing has been progressed through the Justice Act (NI) 2016.  Regulations formally establishing the new Office of the Prison Ombudsman for Northern Ireland will go before the Assembly in due course.

5.         The role of the Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI) is to inspect all aspects of the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland apart from the judiciary.  It also inspects a number of other agencies and organisations that link into the criminal justice system.

6.         Further information on both organisations may be accessed via:


7.         All media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office on 028 9052 6444. Out of hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07623974383 and your call will be returned.

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