Belfast Telegraph

I sensed my cold case unit was set up to fail: Sir Hugh Orde

By Amanda Ferguson

Former PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde has said the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) he established was "set up to fail" – and he now believes it is close to being shut down.

Veteran investigative journalist John Ware interviewed Sir Hugh in west Belfast as part of the 2014 Feile an Phobail programme.

The HET was set up in 2005 to examine Troubles-related murders in an effort to provide information to relatives about their loved ones' deaths.

But the unit has been strongly criticised by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary. In 2013 policing watchdog, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, said it investigated cases where the State was involved with "less rigour" than others and a halt to new reports was ordered.

Sir Hugh said the HET created "the most impressive, depressing, archive of murder in Europe" and spoke of how it was not set up to be a "universal solution".

Now the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Sir Hugh added: "My sense was we were set up to fail. I would have rather had a broad group of people across Northern Ireland to say the things that they were concerned about.

"We knew it was a huge risk, I felt, I knew, it was the right thing to do."

He described the HET as being "on hold" and added: "If that is what success looks like that's not very successful."

Asked what would he have done if had been in post when the critical HMIC report was published, Sir Hugh replied: "Shut it down."

Sir Hugh said the HMIC's criticism of the Historical Enquiries Team was out of context and it was unfair to accuse it of not investigating killings by members of the Army as rigorously as those by paramilitaries.

He added: "People from outside don't understand the complexity and emotion and versions of the truth and history that people have."

He told an audience of victims and politicians that he took a risk to establish the unit.

"The more risk you take because it is the right thing to do, the more vulnerable you are to be attacked."

He rejected the suggestion he had set the HET up to "stall" inquiries into State killings and also spoke of his frustration regarding "continually talking about what has gone on rather than what happens next".

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