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Fury at PSNI chief's failure to probe IRA attacks on soldiers during the Troubles

By Deborah McAleese

Published 27/09/2016

A soldier on patrol in Belfast in 1996
A soldier on patrol in Belfast in 1996

The Police Ombudsman has been asked to investigate Chief Constable George Hamilton over his failure to probe IRA attacks on soldiers during the Troubles.

Furious Army veterans have accused the PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton of "misconduct in public office" for not directing detectives on how to proceed with investigations into scores of paramilitary murder bids on soldiers when they served in Northern Ireland.

Several veterans filed statements with the PSNI last November about the attacks.

However, 10 months on the PSNI have still not drawn up a plan on how to progress the complaints.

"Why are we being treated differently to other victims of historical crimes? All we ask is equality. It is a disgrace that George Hamilton has failed to provide any direction on how these serious crimes should be investigated. At the end of the day, he is the Chief Constable and the buck stops with him," a retired soldier told the Belfast Telegraph.

He added: "The PSNI have yet to commence any investigation into our complaints. I find this lack of action an absolute disgrace and a betrayal to all past members of the armed forces who served during Operation Banner.

"We have been informed that a review was to be carried out in June, then August and finally in September, but as yet we have had no response from senior officers.

"I feel that all victims should be treated equally and fairly, without fear or favour. The PSNI have let down veterans who sacrificed so much during the Troubles and as an organisation they should feel ashamed regarding their lack of interest and commitment."

Senior detectives recently told some soldiers that despite repeated requests for guidance, the PSNI's top team had remained silent. One officer told the veterans that he was "still waiting direction from senior police as to how to proceed".

A veteran, who served here during the 1980s, lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman at the weekend.

In November, the former soldier and retired PSNI detective reported three incidents to police - one when he was targeted in a grenade attack in the New Lodge during a riot, a rocket attack on an Army base in Whiterock, and a bomb attack in the city centre.

"A number of veterans have reported similar incidents but nothing has been done. This is a complete failure to investigate a serious crime. No one else would be treated in this way and I find the whole PSNI attitude and response shocking.

"Ten months without even carrying out basic enquiries is not acceptable. When I served in the PSNI, I would have been disciplined if I had failed to investigate a serious crime.

"This is a dismal and utter failure to direct senior officers to deal with our statements of complaint for over 10 months. It is a disgrace that not one statement has been acted upon in nearly a year."

More than 50 ex-British soldiers have lodged reports with the PSNI.

One of the complainants has asked the PSNI to investigate 16 murder bids on him.

Among the attacks he wants probed are the 1991 PIRA bombing of Musgrave Park Hospital, which killed two soldiers, and the Downing Street mortar attack that same year.

In June Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the PSNI were considering the most appropriate course of action to take and that a decision would be made soon.

However, no course of action has been taken to date.

The Veterans Lobbying Group insisted it was only fair that any investigation by the Northern Ireland authorities into legacy cases should also include attacks on the military.

Operation Banner was the operational name for the British Armed Forces' operation in Northern Ireland from August 1969 to July 2007, as part of the Troubles. At the peak of the operation in the 1970s, about 21,000 British troops were deployed.

Over 700 soldiers were killed in paramilitary attacks and 719 died as a result of other causes.

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