Belfast Telegraph

Dave Cox to leave under-fire HET

The head of an under-fire team of detectives probing thousands of unresolved killings in Northern Ireland is to step aside on September 28, it was confirmed.

Pressure had been mounting on Dave Cox following a damning inspection report that criticised the way the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) reviewed military killings.

Mr Cox will continue in a handover role for a further two weeks.

The development ends confusion over Mr Cox's future.

Inspectors said his unit - established in 2005 to investigate more than 3,000 unresolved killings by republicans, loyalists and the state during the conflict - treated those caused by members of the security forces less rigorously than deaths attributed to paramilitaries.

The report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) further claimed the team was inconsistent, had serious shortcomings and risked losing the confidence of victims' families.

Following the publication, the Policing Board, which scrutinises the police, said it had no confidence in the leadership of the HET.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chief superintendent and superintendent will be appointed on September 28 to review all policies, procedures and standards and fulfil all recommendations made in the recent report.

HET's director of the military operations, Paul Johnston, will also leave on the same date when his contract ends.

Sinn Fein Policing Board member Pat Sheehan said the outcome for Mr Cox should never have been in doubt.

He said the PSNI knew the Board's position was that the leadership of the HET could no longer enjoy the confidence of the Board.

"The same sentiment was widely shared in the public, especially amongst the NGO sector and many of those families who have been directly bereaved during the conflict," the West Belfast assembly member added.

"There should never have been any confusion or indecision in what had to happen."

He added: "Today's decision is a good example of how institutions can work, and be seen to work. Accountability is good for policing."

A group from the Board met with NGOs today representing families who have worked with the HET.

"It is absolutely paramount that the rights and entitlements of families bereaved and the groups and advocates who support them are heard," he added.

A joint statement from Policing Board chair Anne Connolly and Chief Constable Matt Baggott said: "The Board's HET working group met this afternoon with the PSNI senior command team to discuss the implementation of the recommendations of the recent HMIC report.

"This meeting was very constructive and it was agreed that a new PSNI leadership team will replace the current director and deputy director and take direct control of HET as of 28 September 2013.

"There will be a two-week handover period with the former director."

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