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Al Hutchinson must spell out the problems of cold cases

By Liam Clarke

Published 05/09/2011

The Policing Ombudsman is not alone in feeling that historic cases from the dark days of the Troubles hold back his work in the here and now.

Sir Hugh Orde, the former PSNI Chief Constable, felt the same way and set up the Historic Enquiries Team as a semi independent wing of the PSNI to deal with them.

Mr Hutchinson makes a powerful case when he argues that his historic cases directorate should be combined with the HET to tackle the issue in a cohesive way.

It is a good idea.

However, Mr Hutchinson has to explain why dealing with the past has damaged his standing so that neither the police nor campaigning groups feel obliged to accept his findings.

His predecessor, Dame Nuala O'Loan, tackled very controversial cases like the Omagh bombing and UVF murders in north Belfast.

Her reports were furiously contested but, in the end, they served to bolster her reputation for independence in investigating current complaints. In PR terms, they established her willingness to criticise the police so that, when she found in their favour, she was not questioned. Mr Hutchinson failure to do the same leaves him with some explaining to do at the justice committee on Thursday.

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