Victims groups criticize proposal to scrap HET

Posted By: October 01, 2014

Connla Young. Irish News (Belfast). Wednesday,  October 1, 2014
PLANS by the PSNI to scrap the Historical Enquiries Team and replace it with a new
investigations unit have been strongly criticised by victims groups.
The unit is expected to be wound up by Christmas after the PSNI revealed it is
shedding up to 300 jobs across the force.
The HET was set up in 2005 by former chief constable Hugh Orde to investigate the
deaths of more than 3,000 people between 1968 and 1998.
To date it has carried out hundreds of reviews and presented reports to the
relatives of victims.
In the past some relatives of people killed in the Troubles have expressed doubt
about its work while others have refused to engage with the unit because of its
close ties with the PSNI.
Concerns were also raised that former members of the RUC were hired to work in the
In July last year the HET's investigations into military killings were suspended
after the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary found that that it investigated cases
where the state was involved with "less rigour" than cases with no state
Its then boss Dave Cox resigned while former chief constable Matt Baggott said
military cases would be re-examined and a long-term review of HET would begin.
Yesterday's announcement came as the PSNI revealed it is to end its contract with
employment agency Grafton meaning up to 300 jobs will go across the organisation,
including 74 in the HET.
The decision was taken after the Department of Justice cut the PSNI budget by 7 per
cent - or just over £50 million.
Temporary deputy chief constable Alastair Finlay confirmed a new investigations unit
will be set up.
"It is anticipated that we will form a much smaller Legacy Investigations Branch,"
he said.
"In recent weeks we have met with the Policing Board to discuss this challenge and
we will continue to work with them as we progress the issue."
"What is clear is that we cannot afford to do all that we currently do and some of
what we do will take longer to achieve."
A spokesman for the PSNI was unable to confirm under what department the proposed
unit would operate.
Paul O'Connor from the Pat Finucane Centre said the PSNI lacks the "necessary
independence required" to carry out historical investigations.
"What is needed is a new body, completely independent from the PSNI that can secure
the confidence of the whole community," he said.
Solicitor Shauna Carberry, who represents the families of several people killed in
controversial circumstances, said they were glad to see the back of the HET.
"They still require an independent, effective investigation," she said.
"These families have a right to the truth in their lifetime, some of these cases are
40 years old."
Loyalist victims' campaigner Willie Frazer was also critical of the move.
"The disbandment of HET is a major attempt to brush the past under the carpet," he
"HET was set up in the first place to basically mislead the victims. It was nothing
more than an intelligence operation to gather information within the public domain
and to take it out of circulation. "
* MASSACRE: The bullet-riddled minibus at the scene where 10 Protestant workmen were
shot dead by the IRA at Kingsmills, Co Armagh, in 1976. Below left, Paul O'Connor of
the Pat Finucane Centre. Right, loyalist victims' campaigner Willie Frazer