24 January 2006

RUC ‘is outside killings probe’

Daily Ireland

48 UNEXPLAINED RUC KILLINGS - Millions needed to investigate controversial killings

Eamonn Houston

The Northern Ireland Office was last night urged to release millions of pounds in funding to allow the North’s Policing Ombudsman to investigate 48 killings carried out by members of the RUC.
Human Rights Group, the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) led calls for the British government to pour resources into Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan’s office so that an investigating team can begin probing RUC killings before 1998.
It has emerged that cases involving the RUC will not be investigated by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) which yesterday began examining 100 unsolved killings.
The HET plans to revisit the case files of 3,000 unsolved murders from 1969 until the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
It is feared that some relatives of people killed by the RUC may wrongly assume that their cases will be probed by the HET.
The investigation team was set up at a cost of £24.3 million (€35.29 million). A further £7.3 million (€10.6 million) has been earmarked for forensic investigations into so-called “cold cases”.
The probing of killings carried out by RUC officers falls under the remit of the Policing Ombudsman’s Office, which at present does not have the financial resources to examine the cases.
A spokesman for the Ombudsman said: “It is anticipated that we will require additional resources and there is ongoing discussions on that.”
The NIO last night confirmed that negotiations over the money needed to revisit the police cases are ongoing.
However, PFC spokesman Paul O’Connor last night accused the NIO of blocking progress towards reopening the cases.
“Our worry is that there are people out there who may be thinking that the Historical Enquiries Team is going to examine cases.
“Our view is that it is totally unjust that a relative of someone killed by police in 1969 will not be investigated while the case of someone killed by an unknown gunman will. That situation is untenable and totally unacceptable. This is about families being left out.”
A PSNI spokesman last night said the HET does not replace the statutory role of the Police Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman has jurisdiction over police officers and HET has provided it with details of 48 killings carried out by police officers. HET will review all other deaths.
“The relationship between HET and PONI is one of ongoing liaison through a structured process, which includes a protocol and memorandum of understanding,” said the PSNI spokesman.
“This ensures that both agencies can progress their independent and important work in a complementary fashion, especially in any cases where a process of parallel review may be necessary.
“The issue of funding for PONI is not a matter on which PSNI can comment.”
HET boss Dave Cox yesterday said his officers would reopen the files on 3,268 cases during the Troubles and would try to achieve the best resolution for victims’ families. The 84-member police unit is based at Sprucefield, near Lisburn, Co Antrim.
The former Metropolitan Police commander, said: “I do not for a moment underestimate the complexity of this challenge, or the potential emotional stress for relatives associated with revisiting these tragic events.”

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