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Borrow more to boost building, says Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid

The housing crisis should be tackled by borrowing more to fund construction, a senior cabinet minister has said.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said taking advantage of record-low interest rates “can be the right thing if done sensibly”.

The housing crisis Britain faced was “the biggest barrier to social progress in our country today”, he told the BBC.

The Budget on 22 November would contain more on housing policy, Mr Javid said.

“We are looking at new investments and there will be announcements.”

It comes as Mr Javid launches an eight-week review of housing, in which he has called on the industry to offer solutions to the home-buying and selling process.

Speaking to BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Javid said he wanted to “make sure that we’re using everything we have available to deal with this housing crisis”.

‘Invest in the future’

He said between 275,000 and 300,000 homes a year were needed in England alone to help tackle the shortage in affordable housing.

“So for example… you borrow more to invest in the infrastructure that leads to more housing – take advantage of some of the record-low interest rates that we have. I think we should absolutely be considering that.”

He added he would “make a distinction between the deficit, which needs to come down – and that’s vitally important for our economic credibility…

“But investing for the future, taking advantage of record-low interest rates, can be the right thing if done sensibly. And that can help, not just with the housing itself, but one of the big issues is infrastructure investment that is needed alongside the housing.”

Image copyright PA

Theresa May pledged at the Conservative Party conference this month to fix the housing crisis, as she announced an extra £2bn for affordable housing to build an additional 25,000 social homes.

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Actress Rosemary Leach dies after ‘short illness’

Rosemary Leach as the Queen in "Margaret", a BBC drama about Margaret Thatcher
Image caption Rosemary Leach played the Queen in Margaret, a BBC drama about Margaret Thatcher

Actress Rosemary Leach, best known for her roles in the films A Room With A View and That’ll Be The Day, has died, her agent has said.

Leach, who also played Grace in episodes of the sitcom My Family, died in hospital after a “short illness”, Caroline de Wolfe said in a statement.

The stage and screen actress, 81, won an Olivier Award in 1982 for her part in the play 84 Charing Cross Road.

She was also twice nominated for a Bafta award as best supporting actress.

Leach is survived by her actor husband, Colin Starkey.

Image caption Rosemary Leach appeared alongside Ronnie Corbett in Now Look Here, in the 1970s
Image caption She again starred alongside Corbett in the 1974 series The Prince of Denmark
Image caption Leach again played Queen Elizabeth II in the 2005 series Tea with Betty

‘It’s like a bad dream’

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Media captionEverything Everything perform Can’t Do at BBC Music Introducing Live 2017

“There’s a tide and it’s coming in now,” sings Jonathan Higgs on Night Of The Long Knives, the latest single from Everything Everything.

The title refers to Hitler’s bloody purge of the Nazi party in 1934, drawing a parallel to the rise of the right-wing politics in the last two years.

Only Higgs isn’t convinced that fascism will sweep everything in its path.

“They’re saying it’s a wave but it feels like a dribbling mouth,” he sneers in the single, questioning whether the alt-right are a powerful force, or just a bunch of idiots.

“And the answer is both,” he says.

“It depends how we react to it. If everyone [panics and] says, ‘Oh God!’ the next thing you know, they’re the prime minister.

“But if you go, ‘Ha, ha, ha, you’re idiots,’ well… they’ll probably still become prime minister. But you have to keep your head about it.”

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Media captionEverything Everything play Night Of The Long Knives on Annie Mac’s Radio 1 show

It’s surprising to hear Higgs make a plea for perspective. After all, this is a man whose last album, Get To Heaven, was a “wretched and anxious” response to Islamic State militants, beheadings, mass shootings and political corruption.

“I was in a dark place,” he told the BBC on its release. “I was essentially trying to inhabit the minds of the [extremists] and that’s a really horrible thing to face.”

Everything Everything’s new album dials back on the paranoia and dread – partly because Higgs thinks the world has caught up with him.

“I’m not less in that headspace, but I think everyone else is in it more,” he says.

“But the album’s a bit more abstract, a bit more personal. Away from politics and all that stuff, it’s about the human relationships we all have.”

The album is called A Fever Dream, a reference to the “surreal, nightmarish things happening, day after day” – especially the absurdity of modern politics.

It’s there in Big Game, a pomposity-pricking parable about Donald Trump (“Even little children see through you”), and it’s there in Run the Numbers, a song that explores Michael Gove’s comment that “people in this country have had enough of experts“.

“Is it the first song to be inspired by Michael Gove? Yes, and it should be the only one. Let’s leave it at that.”

Image copyright Sony Music
Image caption A Fever Dream reached number five when it was released in August – the band’s best chart position to date

Higgs is smart enough to be aware that he comes from a position of privilege, and his liberal views are out of step with the prevailing political climate.

There’s a song on the album called Ivory Tower, where people threaten to “come and crush me in the Waitrose aisle”. On the title track, he sings: “I hate the neighbours, they hate me too / The fear and the fury make me feel good.”

“It’s admitting that I sort of enjoy arguing,” he explains. “I think we all do on some level. It’s certainly popular.”

“With anonymity you can go much further than you ever could in real life,” Higgs agrees.

“People become very extreme very quickly. It feels good to give yourself over to that emotion.”

This leads to a discussion of the fake news stories that spread in the wake of this month’s mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Everything Everything are named after the first two words on Radiohead’s Kid A album

“I just can’t begin to find a way into that mindset,” says Higgs. “But the whole idea about what’s true has been thrown up in the air: Who do we trust? Why do we trust our journalists? Is it just because we’re used to it?”

“There are codes of practices in place, right?” interjects his bandmate, Jeremy Pritchard. “But does the Daily Mail care? Does Fox News care? I don’t think so.”

Higgs says keeping up with the news “feels like a bad dream – sometimes it’s scary and frightening and sometimes it’s electrifying and exciting”.

He adds: “That’s why there’s a reference to being asleep or dreaming or waking up in every single song. There’s a feeling of ‘is it real, or is it not?'”

If this all sounds pretty heavy, it’s worth noting that Everything Everything have always dressed up their angst in a cathartic explosion of melodic pop.

That’s how they sneak songs like Cough Cough (about greed for oil), My Kz Ur Bf (airstrikes) and Night Of The Long Knives onto daytime radio.

Image copyright Sony Music
Image caption “Musically, A Fever Dream’s a bit more electronic but also heavier with guitars and riffs,” says Pritchard (second left)

In concert, this results in fans bellowing out the lyrics to No Reptiles – a song about feeling passive and useless and alienated from society.

There’s something bizarre, I observe, about hearing 3,000 people chanting: “It’s alright to feel like a fat child in a pushchair.”

“You’re telling me,” laughs Higgs.

“We’re always surprised by what people’s favourites are,” adds Pritchard. “And we’re still towards the beginning of that process on this album.

“We’ve written them, we’ve recorded them and now we’re seeing what works in the live arena – where the energy is, how to play it.”

But the “fat child in a pushchair” remains the bassist’s favourite part of the set, every night.

“I don’t have to play anything at that point in the song,” he says, “So I always take my earphones out and listen to the crowd. It’s incredible.”

A Fever Dream is out now.

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Taxpayer-funded drugs ‘too expensive for patients’

Pharmaceuticals on tableImage copyright iStock

Taxpayer-funded medical research is producing medicines which are increasingly unaffordable for patients who need them, says a new report.

Campaigners claim that the NHS spent more than £1bn on drugs developed from publically funded research in 2016.

But the UK pharmaceutical industry said the main driver of price was the value of drugs to patients.

A government spokesperson said: “We want the UK to continue to be a global leader in research and development.”

They added that the government was committed to ensuring patients could access the effective medicines they needed, at a price that represented value for the NHS and for taxpayers.

A new report, seen by 5 live Investigates, claims that UK taxpayers and patients worldwide are being denied the medicines they need, despite the public sector playing a pivotal role in the discovery of new medicines.

‘Unsustainable’ high prices

The report, published by campaign groups Global Justice Now and Stop Aids, says that even when the government has part-funded the research and development, there is no guarantee that patients will be able to access the medicines at an affordable price.

It says: “In many cases, the UK taxpayer effectively pays twice for medicines: first through investing in R&D, and then by paying high prices for the resulting medicine once ownership has been transferred to a private company.”

It claims the high prices of new medicines are “unsustainable for an already underfunded NHS”.

Industry representatives counter that the situation is not that straightforward.

They say that turning scientific discoveries into medicines takes years of scientific trials and costs billions of pounds, and the process is risky, so not every drug they test will make it to market.

However, campaigners say drug companies are generating huge private profits from public funds.

Image copyright Emma Robertson
Image caption Emma believes drug companies should reduce the price of cancer drugs

‘Serious questions’

Emma Robertson, 35, has incurable breast cancer and is taking the drug, palbociclib.

This drug was originally developed using work carried out by publicly funded Cancer Research UK scientists in the 1980s, for which they won the 2011 Nobel Prize.

In February, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) made a provisional decision not to recommend the drug because the cost was too high in relation to its potential benefits.

However Ms Robertson is receiving the drug through a free trial provided by the drug company Pfizer.

A full course of treatment with palbociclib costs £79,650, which campaigners say means the manufacturer is vastly overpricing the drug.

They claim it could be made and sold for a profit for £1 per pill, but say in fact it is currently sold for 140 times more.

“Pfizer needs to dramatically reduce the price that it wants to charge for this drug,” Ms Robertson says.

“We need to be asking some really serious questions about how drugs are researched and developed,” she adds.

Pfizer denied the drug costs £1 per pill.

It told the BBC that it took more than 20 years to build on the work of the Cancer Research UK scientists.

Turning scientific discoveries into medicines takes “billions of pounds of investment, millions of hours of science and thousands of clinical trials,” the firm explained.

There are around 45,000 new diagnoses of breast cancer each year in England.

Meanwhile, health bosses estimate that around 5,500 people in England would be eligible for treatment with palbociclib.

‘Complete myth’

Richard Sullivan, professor of cancer and global health at Kings College London, said that while some drug companies price their drugs correctly, others “vastly overprice” their drugs.

“Many of these drugs are extremely profitable”, he said, “but there is absolutely no link between the price set and with the returns on the research – it’s a complete myth.”

“When a drug is refused by Nice there’s only one reason it’s refused – the company has knowingly overpriced the drug.”

Professor Sullivan told the BBC that the public sector had contributed anywhere between “30% and up to 90% of the overall research intellectual input” in the development of drugs.

“The public sector is essential for developing new medicines for cancer patients,” he added.

The Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry responded by saying that the suggestion that companies intentionally overpriced drugs “doesn’t make sense” because their overall objective is to ensure that the drugs are approved by Nice and then used by patients.

Controversy

In 2015, the UK government spent £2.3bn on health research and development and the relationship been public funding and profits is complex.

Campaigners say more needs to be done to reform the system and that research and development should not be linked to sales revenue.

Instead, campaigners argue, companies should be rewarded for their research in exchange for limiting the price of drugs.

However the pharmaceutical industry says it provides thousands of jobs and the current system is crucial to encouraging drug development.


5 live Investigates is broadcast on Sunday 22nd October 2017 at 11am BST. If you’ve missed it you can catch up on the iPlayer.

Have you got something you want investigating? We want to hear from you.

Newspaper headlines: May’s ‘climbdown’ and gambling sites curbed

Image caption Prime Minister Theresa May is on the brink of a “major climbdown” over Universal Credit payments, the Sunday Telegraph reports. According to the paper, ministers have signalled that they are looking at ways to reduce the waiting times for the new benefits scheme following interventions by a number of politicians, including former Conservative Prime Minister John Major.
Image caption The Sunday Times says Britain’s gambling companies have been told to pull hundreds of casino games from their websites that appeal to children. The games, which the paper says use cartoons and child-friendly characters, were exposed this month in an investigation by the Times.
Image caption The Guardian leads on the Spanish prime minister’s announcement that he is stripping Catalonia of its autonomy in a bid to “crush” the regional leadership’s move to secede. The paper says the decision escalates what is already Spain‘s deepest constitutional crisis since the restoration of democracy there in 1977.
Image caption “End of rogue estate agents” is the headline on the front page of the Sunday Express. According to the Express, rogue estate agents and unscrupulous sales techniques are to be tackled under plans being drawn up by the government.
Image caption Appearing on Strictly Come Dancing has helped comedian Susan Calman to come to terms with her demons, the Daily Star Sunday reports. The Star says she has suffered badly from depression and was sectioned as a teenager following a suicide attempt.

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Coronation Street precursor’s script found

Tony Warren on Coronation Street in 1985Image copyright Granada TV/PA Wire
Image caption Tony Warren created Coronation Street in 1960

A script for Coronation Street creator Tony Warren’s previously unknown first attempt at a soap opera has been found.

Before Warren changed the TV landscape with Coronation Street in 1960, he started writing Seven, Bessie Street.

His friend David Tucker said it centres on a terraced street but is otherwise very different from Coronation Street.

The script was found in his possessions after he died in 2016 and is now part of an exhibition dedicated to Warren at Salford Museum and Art Gallery.

Warren left his estate to Mr Tucker, a friend of 22 years, with an instruction to destroy all creative works that weren’t already in the public domain.

Image caption Seven, Bessie Street was billed as “a new soap opera in half-hourly episodes”

But Mr Tucker decided to keep the Seven, Bessie Street – with the proviso that no one else could read it.

The script is in a frame in the Salford exhibition with just the cover page, billing it as “a new soap opera in half-hourly episodes”, on show.

Mr Tucker has read it, however, and says it was “quite obviously planned as a soap opera”.

“The only thing really that relates to Coronation Street is the setting of a terraced street and the fact that it jumps a little bit between peoples’ lives,” he told BBC News.

“But there are no characters that relate to Coronation Street at all, and no scenarios. It’s very different.”

Image caption The exhibition traces Warren’s life and career

Seven, Bessie Street revolves around a family – perhaps inspired by Warren’s own – who all have theatrical connections.

“That’s what Tony did know about in his youth,” Mr Tucker said. “That’s probably why it would never have worked as it was, because there was so much in the stories about theatre.

“He was writing from what he knew in that Bessie Street script, but it probably wasn’t going to relate that well to everybody else.

“So he then shifted the focus to the more mundane aspects of terraced street life.”

Although Warren cast the script aside, Bessie Street did make its way into Coronation Street. Weatherfield’s local local primary school is called Bessie Street School.

The exhibition also includes the typewriter Warren used in his early years.

Image caption Warren modelled knitwear products in his youth

After jettisoning Seven, Bessie Street, Warren pitched a drama titled Our Street to the BBC. But he didn’t hear back, so he reworked it as Florizel Street for Granada.

Florizel Street was changed to Coronation Street because – as legend has it – a tea lady named Agnes remarked that Florizel sounded like the name of a disinfectant.

Coronation Street launched in September 1960 and soon became one of the most popular programmes on television.

The exhibition also traces Warren’s early life and career, which included acting in the BBC’s Northern Children’s Hour and writing for police series Shadow Squad.

According to a 1958 receipt, he was paid £150 for the latter.

The exhibition also shows his past as a male model, appearing on the cover of a 1957 edition of Knitters Digest and on the packet for a pullover knitting pattern.

There are many mementos from the Corrie years too, including his MBE, various awards, his red This Is Your Life book and letters from former poet laureate John Betjeman describing it as his “favourite programme”.

Betjeman and Laurence Olivier were such fans that they were chairman and president respectively of the British League for Hilda Ogden, established in 1979.

Tony Warren’s Coronation Street runs at Salford Museum & Art Gallery until 3 July.

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Police conduct inquiries into Royal Bank of Scotland unit

RBS branchImage copyright AFP

Police are looking into the treatment of customers by a division of RBS which was set up to help companies in trouble, the BBC has learnt.

GRG was the part of the bank tasked with helping small businesses, but it has been accused of mistreatment by some customers and MPs.

Officers in Scotland are conducting inquiries into the GRG unit, but are yet to open a formal investigation.

RBS said it would co-operate with any request for information.

Separately, the BBC has obtained a memo written by a GRG employee which appears to show staff were encouraged to extract money from struggling firms.

The bank said the language in the leaked memo – written in 2009 by a junior GRG manager who has now left the company – was “wholly inappropriate”.

The UK‘s financial watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has told the BBC it plans to publish a report into the allegations of the mistreatment of customers before the end of the month.

Scotland‘s national police force was asked last year by crown prosecutors to examine GRG’s handling of clients, the BBC understands.

Police Scotland‘s economic crimes unit has been gathering evidence to see whether there might be enough to pursue a criminal investigation against the bank.

No charges have been brought and no formal investigation has been launched.

‘Destroyed’

The FCA has looked into the allegations of misconduct at GRG, and this week agreed to allow a legal adviser to study its report.

Shadow business minister Bill Esterson said that as a result of GRG: “For years, thousands of people‘s businesses were destroyed and ruined and their relationships broken up, and sadly people [have] taken their own lives.”

He added it was “not before time” that police were looking into the RBS unit.

Meanwhile, a document, seen by the BBC and widely circulated in one division of GRG, speaks about staff extracting revenues from struggling small business customers, instead of trying to cut the clients’ debt and return them to health.

The memo entitled “Just Hit Budget” talks of applying especially high interest rates, which could then be reduced if customers signed over a stake in their business or property.

One line says: “No deal, no way. Missed opportunities will mean missed bonuses.”

‘Incalculable’ scandal

Norman Lamb, vice chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fair Business Banking, said: “This shows that within RBS there was a culture of no real interest in rescuing companies. There was an interest in maximising bonuses and improving the balance sheet.”

The Liberal Democrat MP called it “a scandal of incalculable proportions”, saying the memo raised the question of whether criminal offences had been committed.

“There needs to be an urgent inquiry into this. It’s a blueprint for abuse of business customers in the most shocking way,” Mr Lamb said.

RBS said: “The language used in the document was completely inappropriate and the bank does not condone it.”

Police Scotland said the Crown Office – Scotland’s equivalent to the Crown Prosecution Service – would consider information that meets the standards required for criminal cases.

The government said it did not comment on leaked documents or ongoing investigations.

‘I froze’

Blurred image of a woman in a deserted subwayImage copyright Getty Images

This week, women around the world have been sharing their stories of harassment.

From the workplace, to schools, the streets, to buses – women say they experience harassment in all areas of their lives.

100 Women has been focusing on harassment in public transport this week and has challenged women in London to come up with innovative ways to tackle it.

One of the questions they have heard from women who have been harassed is: “Who do I report it to?”

The challenge in reporting a crime

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Media captionWhy I didn’t report sexual harassment on the bus

Sian Lewis, who is researching sexual harassment, says she did not report an incident she faced in a London bus two months back.

“I froze. I didn’t do anything,” she says.

In 90% of cases, sexual harassment on London transport goes unreported and, according to one study, sexual offences on London’s buses increased from 2012-13 to 2014-15.

Image copyright Getty Images

Authorities say that reporting incidents of harassment would help prevent crime.

The British Transport Police deploys undercover officers during rush hour and on night tubes in order to spot suspicious behaviour and potentially arrest offenders.

“Their job is to see the offences, hopefully, before they occur and stop them and deal with the individual,” says Detective Inspector Brett Walker.


Reporting harassment on public transport

  • Text the transport police on 61016 about the incident
  • Call 101 or 0800 40 50 40
  • Use the passenger alarm
  • Approach a nearest staff member in the bus or tube

The reasons for not reporting sexual harassment cases are varied. In crowded buses or tubes, women are often confused if it happened by mistake or if it was intentional.

“If an individual accidentally brushes against someone, the officers will appreciate this behaviour is normal,” says DI Walker.

“But if an individual is seen getting on and off from the same train or following various women around, it would attract the officers’ suspicion.”

Worries about reporting

Women may be concerned about their confidentiality while reporting a case. Other factors that may deter women include fear of police inaction and concern about being treated insensitively while lodging a complaint. Women can often feel their cases would be treated as “trivial”.

“We know that many women don’t think the police will take the matter seriously or don’t know how to report,” says Siwan Hayward, Head of Transport Policing, Transport For London.

“That’s why we have worked with our policing partners on the Report It To Stop It campaign to make it easy to report your experience by texting 61016.

“You will be believed and you will be taken seriously. Every single report matters, it helps police build a picture so the offender can be brought to justice.

“The safety and security of our passengers is our priority and we are determined to eradicate unwanted sexual behaviour from London’s public transport network.”

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Media captionAnita Nderu says she was harassed on a bus in Nairobi

Unsafe transport system is a global problem. A 2014 poll suggested cities such as Bogota, Mexico City, Lima and Delhi had some of the more dangerous transportation systems when it came to women’s safety.

Unwanted sexual behaviour includes rubbing, groping, masturbation, leering, sexual comments, someone taking photos of you of a sexual nature without your consent or any indecent acts.

In fact, you can report any incident that you may have found uncomfortable.

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What is 100 Women?

BBC 100 Women names 100 influential and inspirational women around the world every year. In 2017, we’re challenging them to tackle four of the biggest problems facing women today – the glass ceiling, female illiteracy, harassment in public spaces and sexism in sport.

With your help, they’ll be coming up with real-life solutions and we want you to get involved with your ideas. Find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and use #100Women


Undercover police hunt sex offenders on Tube

Transport for London say 90% of sexual behaviour on the capital’s transport network goes unreported.

BBC 100 Women went undercover on the Tube with British Transport Police officers trying to catch offenders.

Read what to do if you are being harassed here

What is 100 Women?

BBC 100 Women names 100 influential and inspirational women around the world every year. In 2017, we’re challenging them to tackle four of the biggest problems facing women today – the glass ceiling, female illiteracy, harassment in public spaces and sexism in sport.

With your help, they’ll be coming up with real-life solutions and we want you to get involved with your ideas. Find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and use #100Women

Chief Constable Hamilton investigated by ombudsman

George Hamilton, PSNI Chief Constable (left), Drew Harris, Deputy Chief Constable (centre) and Mark Hamilton, Assistant Chief Constable (right)Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton (left), Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris (centre) and Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton deny the allegations

Three of Northern Ireland’s most senior police officers are under investigation for alleged misconduct in public office and criminality that could amount to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Chief Constable George Hamilton and his deputy Drew Harris are being investigated by the Police Ombudsman.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton is also under investigation.

In a statement, the PSNI said they “completely refute the allegations”.

The inquiry focuses on concerns about how the Police Service of Northern Ireland conducted an investigation into allegations of bribery and fraud in 2014.

It includes allegations that entries in police notebooks and journals were changed.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Drew Harris, George Hamilton and Mark Hamilton

In a statement to the BBC, the ombudsman’s office confirmed “a number of allegations” had been made against a range of officers.

BBC News NI has established that those under investigation include:

  • PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton
  • Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris
  • Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton

The nature of the complaints and the seniority of those under scrutiny make this investigation unprecedented.

In terms of current policing issues, it’s considered to be the most serious investigation the Ombudsman’s office has undertaken.

The investigation was launched after the Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, received complaints from seven people questioned as part of an investigation into allegations of bribery and misconduct in public office in the awarding of PSNI vehicle contracts.

They included retired PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland, and the former Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, Mark Gilmore.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption George Hamilton was appointed PSNI Chief Constable in May 2014 – he was previously Assistant Chief Constable

They were questioned in June 2014. Eighteen months later, the public prosecution service informed them that none would face any charges.

The Police Ombudsman has established a dedicated team of six investigators to examine the allegations about the PSNI investigation.

“They include allegations of criminality and misconduct in how this investigation was undertaken,” added the Ombudsman’s statement.

It’s understood the alleged criminality being investigated includes claims that entries in police notebooks and journals were changed.

There are also claims that the PSNI didn’t follow proper procedures to obtain warrants.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Drew Harris was appointed Deputy Chief Constable in October 2014

A solicitor for those who lodged complaints said he believed there were a number of serious flaws in the way the PSNI conducted the investigation against his clients.

“It is our contention that there is evidence of serious criminal activity on the part of members of the PSNI,” said Ernie Waterworth.

“It’s an extremely serious allegation and I have to say my clients thought long and hard before going down this road.”

The PSNI normally does not comment in detail on live investigations by the Ombudsman, but on this occasion has robustly rejected the allegations.

“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,” said its statement.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Mark Hamilton was appointed Assistant Chief Constable in July 2013

It said the PSNI “acknowledges and supports the need for office of the Police Ombudsman to investigate these allegations and all officers are co-operating fully with the investigation”.

Explaining its unusual decision to give a more detailed response, the statement said media coverage of the investigation “has the potential to negatively impact on public confidence in policing”.

Sources have told BBC News NI that the PSNI consulted a number of external criminal justice agencies throughout the 2014 investigation, which it was fully satisfied was conducted properly.

The ombudsman has declared the investigation a “critical incident”.

That means it’s considered a matter that “could have a significant impact on the person making the complaint, on the police or on the wider community”.

The PSNI said it had “full confidence” in the ombudsman to complete a thorough investigation, adding that he should be allowed to do so “without ongoing public commentary”.

The investigation is expected to take more than a year to complete.