Northern Ireland

Historical Enquiries Team criticised: reaction to HMIC report

The body set up to probe deaths during the Troubles in Northern Ireland investigated cases where the state was involved with "less rigour" than others, a police watchdog has found.

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary said it appeared the Historical Enquiries Team's (HET) policy was based on a "misrepresentation of the law".

It said their approach was inconsistent and had serious shortcomings.

HET was set up in 2005 to re-examine 3,260 murders.

Here are some reactions to the report:

Prof Patricia Lundy, author of University of Ulster report into HET

"I think the HET as an organisation itself is irretrievable at this point.

"I think it has implications for lots of different cases, not just the army cases.

"We've heard the structural problems, there's no oversight, there's no complaints procedure and really it seemed to me that it was a bit of a law unto itself.

"But importantly it is not Article 2 compliant and importantly HMIC have said that it acted outside of the law and that's as serious as it gets.

"I have to say I'm not surprised, I raised most of these issues back in 2008 and in 2012.

"But I have to say it's a very bittersweet day for me. I've always been very confident of my research and the findings because it is based on evidence but this involves families and families were at the other end of this process."

Frances Meehan, sister of Michael Donnelly shot dead in 1981

"We feel badly, badly let down. We don't think that any reconstituted HET could continue investigations into any of our family members and we would be looking for an investigation with an element of international oversight attached to it.

"It almost feels like my brother was killed yesterday, this has brought it all back again.

"I feel let down firstly by the HET, by the chief constable, but by the state in general and by our politicians too."

Matt Baggott, Chief Constable, Police Service of Northern Ireland

"I am sorry that HET put in place a policy that was wrong. I accept the recommendations of the HMIC Report in full and I will work with the (Policing) Board on ensuring their delivery.

"The establishment of the HET in 2005 was a brave move and yet was always going to be contentious. The approach was endorsed by many, including government, as a step towards a more holistic societal approach to the past; an issue which has yet to be resolved politically. The HET has done a great deal of good in bringing a measure of resolution to families.

"HET is unique and so is the task they fulfil. There was no easy or established template to be followed. Notwithstanding this, a differential approach to military cases is wrong. I give you my assurance that this has ended."

Kathryn Stone, Commissioner for Victims and Survivors

"My immediate thoughts are of the impact today's HMIC report will have on victims and survivors.

"This report will affect those who have already been through the process of having their cases reviewed by the HET, those who are currently going through the process, and those who are still waiting.

"It is imperative that effective communication channels are established by the chief constable to deal with any concerns that victims and survivors may want to raise after today's report. The consideration of victims and survivors and their families should always be central to the work of the HET."

Mark Thompson, Relatives for Justice Director

"The report by the HMIC is damning. It is clear that the HET operate with no policies, no procedures and no terms of reference. However, in particular the treatment of victims of state violence is shameful.

"Today's report outlines the substandard, non-compliant examinations of deaths by the HET in these cases. It outlines to families how once again British soldiers have been protected from prosecution.

"For some of these families the HET process has even claimed to examine the killings twice and still failed."

Gerry Kelly, Sinn Féin MLA and policing spokesman

"Everything that has been uncovered about the PSNI's Historical Enquiries Team approach to state killings is an affront to those citizens who lost loved ones during the conflict.

"Above all, our thoughts today should be with those victims who have been re-traumatised in the shameful charade which has been conducted by the HET. The HET has institutionalised the hierarchy of victims of the conflict in our society."

Jonathan Craig, DUP MLA and Policing Board member

"It is in the interests of everyone in Northern Ireland that the processes for investigating historical cases can stand up to the highest levels of scrutiny. The report makes it clear that HET has not always attained the standards expected in this regard.

"Our task now is to act on the report's findings and ensure that the recommendations are implemented. In so doing we can create a mechanism which all of the people of Northern Ireland can give their support to.

"The DUP shares the wider sense of frustration that exists within the community about the level of accountability and legal recourse being applied to so-called "state actors", when terrorists and former terrorists refuse to be full and active participants in the process of truth recovery, with some continuing to even deny they were terrorists in the first place."

Conall McDevitt, SDLP MLA and Policing Board member

"This report fully vindicates the academics and others who have been expressing deep concern at the way the HET has been investigating deaths at the hands of the state in Northern Ireland and its lack of proper accountability.

"The further finding that the HET's intelligence unit is staffed largely by former employees of either the RUC or PSNI will further damage confidence in its genuine commitment to dealing with crimes from our past in a fair manner."

Tom Elliott, Ulster Unionist Party MLA and justice spokesperson

"Every killing which occurred during the Troubles should be investigated with impartiality.

"The Ulster Unionist Party has been clear for some time that the mechanisms which are currently in place to deal with the past operate, on the whole, in an imperfect and imbalanced manner with some using it as a means to attempt to rewrite history painting the state and agents of the state as villains. That is not something which will be allowed to happen."

Anne Connolly, Policing Board Chair

"The board welcomes the very thorough inspection completed by HMIC and accepts all of the 20 recommendations that have been made.

"As a board our job now is to make sure that the recommendations are acted on and we are resolved that the particular issues relating to governance and oversight can and will be fully addressed."

Alan Brecknell, Pat Finucane Centre

"All the cases that have been reviewed to date, need to be reviewed again.

"I'm not sure who needs to do that review. What I would say is, I do think it shouldn't be the PSNI. I think it needs to be independent of all processes here. It's not up to us to come forward with who that is or what that structure should look like.

"We need to talk to the other interested bodies, the families, the NGOs and people working in that area to come up with some sort of definitive way of moving this forward."

David Ford, Justice Minister

"Dealing with the past is a difficult and complex issue. There will be no easy solution. This is not solely a justice and policing challenge. It is also for others across government and civic society.

"I look forward to the establishment of the all-party working group to deal with issues including the past."

Vernon Coaker, Shadow Secretary of State

"The report makes worrying reading and identifies a number of very serious issues that need urgent attention.

"I am glad that the chief constable has given the speedy and unequivocal response he has. The onus now is on the HET to recognise and resolve the problems that exist.

"It has work to do to repair the damage to its reputation and restore trust, particularly with the families involved in these cases."

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