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PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton: I want to hand over 'vault' of secret police files on troubles murders

By Deborah McAleese

Published 12/06/2015

George Hamilton
George Hamilton

Chief Constable George Hamilton wants to hand over the police "vault" of information on Troubles murders to an independent body investigating Northern Ireland's toxic past.

Mr Hamilton told the RTE programme Collusion that the proposed Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) would provide a comprehensive look at the material the police have retained from the Troubles.

He said that if the "vault" containing "millions of documents" was opened, it would also raise questions for republicans and loyalists.

"I don't think we should be exempt from scrutiny from investigation in the police service, past or present. I think that's good... but I actually think other people have stories to tell and questions to answer," Mr Hamilton told journalist Brian Rowan.

He added that he had "no doubt" that when the "metaphorical vault" is opened "out of that will pour material that will present challenges for other people in the system.

"One would expect that if we are sitting on millions of pages of intelligence documents from a very busy time when there were killings happening almost on a daily basis and some sort of atrocity happening on a regular basis, you would expect that there will be material there that will present challenges for individuals and opportunities for investigators," Mr Hamilton explained.

He also revealed that police records from the past included plans for covert operations and minutes of meetings.

"My understanding is that the IRA, the UVF and the other players in this didn't keep notes or minutes of meetings or records of decisions... we did. And I think all of that has left us somewhat exposed," he said.

The Chief Constable added: "I think it was the right thing to do. I don't regret it.

"But it has meant there has been a one-sided focus to the role of the police."

He said that the HIU would bring "a more proactive, a more balanced perspective to what actually happened during the period of the Troubles".

The new unit was proposed as part of the Stormont House Agreement in December to take on the criminal justice element of investigating the past. A separate truth recovery mechanism has been proposed to offer bereaved relatives the chance to learn more about the circumstances of their loved ones' deaths without the prospect of conviction.

An 18 to 24-month timeframe for legislation to create the HIU was envisaged.

However, movement has been stalled due to the fall-out over welfare reform.

In the meantime the PSNI's new Legacy Investigations Branch is pursuing Troubles cases.

Read more:

Bombshell documentary uncovers Government collusion with loyalist paramilitaries

UVF 'wanted to unleash civil war' with Dublin and Monaghan bombings  

The PSNI vault: It's our Pandora's box on the Troubles

Truly terrible vista of collusion

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