Northern Ireland

PSNI: Matt Baggott urges inquiry curb on Troubles murders

The outgoing chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland has said his force should not investigate Troubles-related murders from before the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Matt Baggott told the BBC that a new way must be found to deal with such cases.

He made the comments in an interview marking his final day in office.

He told the BBC that there was a "need to separate the past from the present".

"I think how ever that is done, the PSNI should no longer be accountable for dealing with issues that pre-date the Good Friday Agreement," he said.

'Different authority'

"We have to create a situation where police resources are focused on the here and now, without taking away from the needs of justice or victims.

"But that can be done in a different place, under a different authority."

Northern Ireland attorney general John Larkin QC said last December that there should be no further police investigations, inquests or inquiries into any killings pre-dating the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Larkin's proposal prompted First Minister Peter Robinson to say it was "effectively an amnesty" and that those who were victims of the Troubles had a right to expect prosecutions.

More than 3,500 people were killed during three decades of conflict in Northern Ireland.

Mr Baggott, who has been a police officer for 37 years, first took up the job as head of the PSNI in August 2009.

His tenure in Northern Ireland included overseeing what was described as the safest G8 summit ever held, a policing operation praised by protesters and US President Barack Obama.

However, he also found himself heavily criticised by unionists and nationalists over how police dealt with flag protests and parades.

'Massive privilege'

Protests over the flying of the union flag started in December 2012 after many people within loyalist communities were angered by the decision of Belfast City Council to restrict the number of days the flag is flown at the city hall.

Mr Baggott said being the chief constable in Northern Ireland had been a "massive, massive privilege".

"It is absolutely the friendliest place that I've ever had the privilege to work and throughout the last five years, which hasn't been without its challenges, we have been buoyed and encouraged all the way along that by some fantastic people.

"It is with a heavy heart that we're going."

The new chief constable will be the current assistant chief constable, George Hamilton from Bangor, County Down.

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