Difficulties in dealing with the past

Posted By: November 13, 2013

Allison Morris.Irish News( Belfast).Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Any new approach to the way the past is policed following the 
Richard Haass talks could require a major change in the law, 
Matt Baggott has said. Historical investigations are currently costing the PSNI
 £27 million a year, with only a handful of convictions to show for it.
A damning Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary report into the
 Historical Enquiries Team has recently placed the future of the
 'cold case' unit in doubt.
It found its approach was inconsistent and had serious shortcomings,
 with cases 
where there was state involvement in killings being 
investigated with "less rigour" than others.
Mr Baggott said while he will present the Policing Board with a
 number of alternatives by the end of this month, it 
will ultimately be down to politicians to com up 
with a long-term plan for dealing with the past.
He said: "I have an option paper being produced at the minute
 which will set out what the
HET should be in the next few years - if it should remain something that
 is essentially
 about trying to find out the truth, providing a degree of subjectivity to
 that, or should it become a cold case review team that works to national
"That's a dilemma because many people have benefited from its role,
 which is slightly outside of the justice process.
"Clearly the HM Inspectorate took the view that it had to comply with
 modern standards,
 therefore it does potentially change the remit of the 
"The goal posts changed between 2005 and now as to what the HET remit should be".
Cross-party talks involving American diplomat
 Richard Haass have been tasked with finding a
 new approach to dealing the past.
Current arrangements see the PSNI, Police Ombudsman, coroner courts
and government-sponsored inquiries all examining killings during the 
The talks are expected to wind up at Christmas with
 the findings delivered in the New Year.
"think we have to wait for what Richard Haass comes up with,
 because it's not just the HET, it's about inquests and a whole range of
 things that affect the past," the chief con-stable said.
"I told the Policing Board last week the post-devolution PSNI isn't 
equipped to deal with the enormity of 40 years of Troubles.
"He may come up with a model like Eames/Bradley (the 2009 report 
chaired by Lord Eames and Denis Bradley which 
proposed a Legacy Commission) to investigate the past.
If that happens they may need to change the legislation, because as it 
stands we are duty 
bound to investigate and there is still a sentence of two
 years for pre-Good Friday offences."
Allison Morris a.morris@irishnews.com