Belfast Telegraph

'No confidence' in leader of HET

The future of the man heading up a special unit investigating unsolved murders in Northern Ireland is in doubt after the Policing Board said it had no confidence in his leadership.

Dave Cox, a retired London Metropolitan Police commander, has been in charge of the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) since it was formed eight years ago.

But his position as director looked untenable after the board called in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Constable Matt Baggott to examine management arrangements. All cases involving military personnel in killings, many of them in disputed circumstances and which are under review, have been suspended.

A working group has been established to implement a series of recommendations by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) following a devastating report which claimed that interviews by HET investigators of former soldiers were not rigorous enough.

Mr Cox is on leave. He was appointed by the former PSNI chief constable Sir Hugh Orde, now president of the Association of Chief Police Officers. A source close to the board said Mr Cox's days in charge could be numbered: "It's doubtful if he'll survive this. They (the members) are deeply unhappy."

Even though reviews of all military cases have been suspended, the process of all other reviews will continue. But tellingly no further cases will be finalised until all the necessary reforms are introduced.

The board, which made the no-confidence announcement just before meeting Mr Baggott in Belfast, said the working group would also review what it claimed were failures by senior officers to respond promptly to issues raised in relation to the work of the HET - a decision which has apparently heightened tensions between the two sides.

The PSNI has to find £13 million in its budget to fund the next two years of work by the HET, which was established in 2005 to review 3,260 killings during 30 years of the Northern Ireland Troubles between 1968 and 1998, when the Good Friday peace agreement was signed. About 1,713 cases relating to 2,209 deaths have been completed.

The aim of the unit, which consists of around 100 investigators, was to bring closure to many bereaved families who still wanted questions answered about the deaths of their loved ones. Previously the £30 million needed to fund the unit was paid by the Government.

Part of unit's work involves the reviewing of 157 killings by British soldiers between 1970 and 1973. That investigative process was carried out by the so-called Red Team made up of retired detectives from forces across Britain, but the HMIC report claimed the HET approach towards its work was inconsistent, particularly in relation to the interviews of ex-soldiers.

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