Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Police chief in talks with HET head

Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable Matt Baggott

The Northern Ireland Policing Board is to be briefed on a crunch meeting between the PSNI chief constable and the head of a special unit set up to investigate unsolved Troubles-related murders.

The meeting was convened amid calls for Dave Cox, chairman of the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), to step down after a damning report claimed investigators had adopted a differential approach to State killings.

The critical review by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) alleged the HET was not rigorous enough when questioning members of the security forces; was inconsistent; had serious shortcomings and risked losing the confidence of victims' families.

In a new statement, the PSNI said: "The chief constable today met with the head of the Historical Enquiries Team to discuss how the recommendations in the HMIC report should be progressed. The chief constable will now report to the dedicated working group established by the Northern Ireland Policing Board to consider the way forward."

Last week the Policing Board said it had no confidence in the HET. Mr Cox, a retired London Metropolitan Police commander, has been in charge of the HET since it was formed eight years ago.

His position as director has been in doubt since the Policing Board called in PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott to examine management arrangements.

The HET was set up in September 2005 to investigate more than 3,200 unsolved murders between 1968 when violence first erupted on the streets of Belfast and Londonderry, and 1998, the year of the Good Friday peace agreement which led to the formation of the power-sharing executive at Stormont.

The aim of the unit, which consists mostly of retired police officers from forces around the UK, including the old Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), was to bring closure to many bereaved families who still had unanswered questions about the death or disappearance of their loved ones.

But after the HMIC was called in last year by Mr Baggott to carry out a major review focusing on killings involving troops between 1970 and 1973, it seems the work of the unit fell short of what it was meant to achieve.

The way it investigates was also strongly criticised in a report by a senior University of Ulster lecturer. Dr Patricia Lundy said her research indicated that interviews with soldiers were not impartial or effective.

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