THE two most senior police officers in Northern Ireland are under investigation for alleged misconduct in office and criminality, the PSNI have confirmed.
Chief Constable George Hamilton and his deputy Drew Harris are subject to the probe, which is being led by the Police Ombudsman.
A number of other senior PSNI officers are also under investigation, including Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton.
It is alleged that the officers engaged in criminality that could amount to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice as well as public misconduct.
In a statement, the PSNI said they “completely refute” the allegations.
They said: “PSNI can confirm that a number of senior officers including the Chief Constable and Deputy Chief Constable have been informed of complaints made against them by former senior PSNI officers.
“The complaints relate to allegations of misconduct by senior police during a criminal investigation by the PSNI into the two complainants, former senior colleagues, during 2014.
"PSNI acknowledges and supports the need for the Office of the Police Ombudsman to investigate these allegations and all officers are co-operating fully with the investigation.
"The Chief Constable, Deputy Chief Constable and other officers completely refute the allegations made against them and are strongly of the view that these complex investigations into the complainants were conducted with professionalism and integrity.
“This position has been fully outlined in the Officers initial response to OPONI (Office of the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland).”
The PSNI said that the “unusual” investigation warranted a particular response.
"Whilst ordinarily, the Police Service would limit its responses on matters where it is under investigation, this case has particular and unusual aspects to it,” they said.
"This case has been the subject of recent speculative press and media coverage which has the potential to negatively impact on public confidence in policing.
"We have full confidence in the OPONI to complete a thorough investigation and we trust that they are left to do so without ongoing public commentary."
The Police Ombudsman’s Office said their investigation was prompted by concerns about allegations of bribery and misconduct in public office in 2014.
The Office is investigating allegations of criminality and misconduct regarding how the PSNI investigated those allegations three years ago.
Former West Yorkshire chief constable Mark Gilmore, an ex-PSNI officer, was among nine people interviewed by detectives in the 2014 investigation.
No charges were ultimately brought against any of the men – who denied all allegations.
The Ombudsman said the investigation “includes a range of officers, including those above the rank of Chief Superintendent.”
“The Police Ombudsman has declared the matter to be a ‘critical incident’ – an issue the outcome of which could have a significant impact on the person making the complaint, on the police or on the wider community.
“A team has been set up to look into these matters. It includes six investigators and has access to external legal advice
“Given that some of the officers are above the level of Chief Superintendent, the Policing Board has been notified.
“The Office has not recommended the suspension of any of the police officers concerned.”