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PSNI chief shuffling top team for legacy case probes

By Deborah McAleese

Published 27/01/2016

Chief Constable George Hamilton
Chief Constable George Hamilton
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton
ACC Will Kerr

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton is reshuffling his senior detectives in a bid to deal with controversial legacy cases.

The Belfast Telegraph has learned that Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton is to take over responsibility for Troubles-related cases from Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr, who heads up the organisation's Crime Operations Department (COD).

It is understood that the COD, which covers organised crime, major investigations, intelligence branch, specialist operations and scientific support, had too heavy a workload to effectively deal with legacy cases.

However, policing expert Dr Jonny Byrne, of the Ulster University, said "shifting legacy from one cupboard to another" was not the answer to the problem.

"Without political agreement on a way forward to deal with legacy issues, the Chief Constable has been left essentially fire-fighting," he added.

"He has to do something, but moving responsibility from one department to another will not make much difference.

"It doesn't resolve the issues around funding, public confidence or the needs of victims and their families."

Under the Stormont House deal that was agreed in late 2014, a Historical Inquiries Unit was meant to be established to solve Troubles cases.

However, last year's Fresh Start deal did not include any agreement on the mechanism by which this would be done.

Earlier this month, former Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde hit out at the "destruction" of the PSNI's Historical Enquiries Team (HET), which he helped set up.

Sir Hugh claimed that the resolution of controversial legacy cases could have been much easier if the investigating body had not been closed down.

He also branded the shutting down of the HET a "massive mistake" that came with huge consequences.

The body was disbanded in 2014 as a result of cuts and after a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary the HET's director, Dave Cox, resigned from his post.

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