Historical Investigations Unit will have full powers
IN reading your newspaper on Monday, September 14, I was concerned at a number of inaccuracies in an article headlined 'Victims still crying out for justice' and a related editorial comment that may have inadvertently misled the families of victims of the Troubles.
I am greatly concerned at families who have lost loved ones during the Troubles receiving inaccurate information, causing them needless distress. As a result I felt it important that I write to clarify the position regarding the powers of the proposed Historical Investigations Unit (HIU).
Paragraph 36 of the Stormont House Agreement clearly states that in respect of criminal investigations, the HIU will have full policing powers.
The powers of police officers in criminal investigations are set out in the Police and Criminal Evidence Order. HIU officers will have all the powers and privileges of a constable when undertaking criminal investigations.
This will mean that HIU officers will have the same power to compel a potential suspect to attend interview under caution as the police currently do.
The statement in the Telegraph article that the HIU, "... would not have statutory powers to compel either witnesses, or suspects, to attend interviews" misrepresents the information provided by my department.
The HIU, on its establishment, will be an independent body with all of the powers that it needs to conduct fair and impartial investigations into outstanding Troubles-related deaths.
The HIU will provide a unique opportunity to deal with some of the difficult and painful issues of our past.
The Stormont House Agreement promotes a victim-centred approach to dealing with the past, which will guide the HIU's investigations.
It is crucial that we resolve the current political challenges and implement the Stormont House Agreement in full. Its holistic approach to dealing with the past offers the best hope of progress for a generation.
DAVID FORD MLA